TITLE: Vulamehlo - Episode 01 - Previously On Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
SERIES: Vulamehlo (Zulu for Open Your Eyes)
AUTHOR: Siege (firstname.lastname@example.org)
GROUP INFO: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Fevered-Imaginings/
DISTRIBUTION: Anywhere just let me know ‘K
DISCLAIMER: All things BtVS related belong to Joss Whedon and ME. All series, books or others belong to their rightful owners, which isn't me.
SUMMARY: Episode One of a off shoot series from BtVS. Set a year after Chosen, it details a new team making their beginnings.
FEEDBACK: The more I get, the faster I write, and the more often I'll post.
RELATIONSHIPS: Yes :)
SPECIAL NOTE: If you don't recognize the crossover used in this first Ep. Go to :- http://members.tripod.com/~rollindice/Courtneys.html for more information on the books I'm crossing with here.
BEWARE: Spoilers for Btvs all series and Angel as well.
DATE: Started: 08/11/2004 - Completed: 09/11/2004.
WORD COUNT: 10,526k
BETA'D: Graham Hands
AUTHORS NOTES: This is the first in a new series of short episodical stories that I'm writing based after S7 of BtVS. After Chosen Xander is in Africa. Everything happened that happened in Canon.
This is inspired by Contrite Spirits By Lizbeth Marcs. I'd like to give a big shout out to her for allowing me to take the idea and run with it. She's ten times the writer I am, I just hope I do her idea justice.
The Crossover mentioned is not a big deal in this first book, but they will be later on and in the form of flashbacks throughout the series.
Previously On Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Sweat beaded his brow as the south African sun beat down its blazing glory upon his head. Out here in the hot plain lands there was little point in looking for shade at this time of day. It wasn't just mad dogs and Englishmen that came out in the midday sun; it was also Xander and his local guide.
One year after the collapse of Sunnydale and the rebuilding of the watcher's council and Xander still out in Africa. There had been numerous calls for him to head home, both from his friends and from the Watcher's council itself. So far he had managed to dodge them all. It wasn't that he didn't want to see his friends again; well actually that was part of it. It was more that he loved it out here, the harsh beauty of the savage land spoke to him. No not spoke, sung, sung to him a siren call that he couldn't ignore.
So far, he had found no less than 50 slayers. His record was the best, or so he'd found out through third parties. He had picked up the messages, he just ignored them. Why had he been so successful? That was actually fairly simple; he could spot a slayer from 30 paces. There was something about the way a Slayer held herself that spoke to Xander. He'd met no less than three and then well hundreds. In fact he, apart from the other members of the original gang, had seen more slayers than any other living being. And considering his record... He was most likely the one person in the world who had met the most slayers.
His base camp was a training camp for the multitude of warrior women he had met so far, and even though he was rarely there, he knew every single one by name and face. Yet even that small detail was only a small factor of the secret of his success. It could've been that after Sunnydale and the loss of Anya, he truly didn't have anything else to live for. Or perhaps not, after his first night or shortly after at least.
He considered, personally, the reason why he was so successful was simplicity itself. It had all begun on his first night. He'd arrived in Jo'berg as the locals called it, Johannesburg to everyone else late in the afternoon, he had then unpacked and done a little advance planning. He had managed to get well into the evening before boredom drove him out. His hotel room had been, nice but not 4 star, but he'd found it oppressive and had gone for a long walk through the streets.
It had been then; that the fun had started.
One Year and Two Weeks Earlier
Xander walked through the streets of Jo'Berg at night, his hands buried in his pockets and his single eye looking at the beauty of the city with a cynical air. The night air was much cooler than the oppressive heat of the day, there was a storm threatening off to the west something that made the air feel like sludge, even at night. Luckily, California, although not as hot as Africa had helped his body be prepared much better than say an Englishman would have been.
He was feeling as he had since he had left the 'dale. Depressed and aimless. He and Anya had no longer been an 'Item' but that didn't mean that he didn't love her. He was the Heart of the Scooby gang according to the spell they had used for ADAM. That heart was now wounded and tired. He was tired of being the support system for four people who should have been adult enough for their own support.
He'd like to say that was why he had come all this way, to escape. However, that wasn't the reason at all. He'd been virtually ordered to come out to Africa. A place that he had no interest in visiting. Why? Now that was a story and a half. All because of a not so misunderstanding with Robin Wood. He'd quiet liked the son of a slayer and ex-principle. That was until he found him boning one of the baby slayers. She'd been over age and everything, that wasn't what bothered him. Robin was supposed to be with Faith. He wasn't even sure why he had cared, he just hated to see the still vulnerable slayer be screwed over like that. Add to that his somewhat excessive temperament at the time and a disaster had come about. He'd walked into the weapon's room to find Robin and one of the newest found slayers doing the horizontal tango and had first yelled, gesticulated and then fired the crossbow he had in his hand. Straight into the larger mans thigh. It was by no means a killing blow it was, however, the very least that he deserved as far as Xander was concerned. He'd been caught doing much the same thing once himself, but that told him that it would hurt Faith, hurt the careful balance that all of them had been forced to endure.
Needless to say the others hadn't seen it that way. Faith had been out of the country, finding slayers. In fact, Robin’s partner had been one of hers. The irony of that certainly wasn't lost of Xander. After that he had been deemed as being somewhat unhinged. His 'friends' had taken Robins side in all of this and he'd been pushed out to the side. Then when the African situation had come to light he'd been 'given' the mission.
A flight later and he was cooling his heels in the hottest part of the world. He suspected that the 'African Situation' was in fact a fabrication, and excuse to get him out of the way. Robin had been livid, and had threatened retribution; once he was able to walk again. As for Faith, he had no idea how she felt about it, she had not returned by time he'd left. He didn't actually like Faith, now that he came to think about it, but that didn't mean that she deserved for something like that to happen.
A scream rent the night, disturbing Xander from his thoughts and pushing him into action. He sprinted towards the source of the sound to find three large men, manhandling a middle aged woman into a side alley. With a glance around Xander realized that the appeared to have wandered off of the beaten track, but not too far. He was surprised that he was the only one reacting to the call. But then, there was no one in the immediate facility. But he would have through her scream would have carried as far as the crowded street beyond.
Shaking off his thoughts fully he slipped out two stakes from his pocket; one for each hand. Then moving as quickly and stealthily as he could he followed the men into the alley. As he got closer he saw that the stakes were justified and acted quickly.
In a place such as Jo'Berg there was a large amount of religions and sects. Tribal gods and the alike were rife, especially now that the white-folk no longer had full control. That said, it was surprising at how small a number of these religious people knew what happened in the night. Due to the long days and short nights Vampire's were a rarity. All of which meant that the vampires didn't know what hit them.
With reflexes trained by years of demon hunting Xander dispatched the first vampire in a puff of dust. The other two turned to him, one got a foot to the gut that doubled him over. The other a stake appeared in its chest from a simple underhanded throw. Then before the final vampire had time to collect itself and stand Xander introduced a stake to its heart.
Then he looked up into a pair of shocked blue eyes and smiled.
Then a second later he was picked up by a large hand and unceremoniously thrown against the wall. He turned, stake at the ready, blinking back the blackness of unconsciousness to be punched in the face. The first thing he noted was how much it hurt, the second was that it was no where near a vampires power. He managed to look up into a pair of flashing, almost amber eyes.
"Nicky!" the woman called out, collecting herself with remarkable speed.
The man, some five to ten years older than Xander himself turned to face his mother, "Enough. He saved me"
"From what?" Nicholas de Santiago-Courtney asked his mother.
"I'm not sure" Isabelle Courtney-ne-Santiago said in a confused voice. "Whatever they were they turned to dust."
Nicky smiled that devilishly handsome smile he had inherited from his father and looked at her as if she were mad, "Have you been trying Grandfathers newest batch again mater?"
Isabelle smiled at her son, "Let him up Nicky; we owe this man our thanks."
Xander stood under his own power and smiled ruefully at the man that had punched him, "Nice hook" he said.
"You're an American" Isabelle said with a slight smile. "I am Isabelle Courtney and this is my son Nicholas Courtney. Thank you for your assistance" she said, her smile growing into a warm one.
"My pleasure" Xander replied, testing his jaw and cricking his neck.
"What were those things?"
"Muggers?" Xander said hopefully.
Isabelle Courtney, still a beautiful woman, glared blue ice at him. "Really?" she said with little belief in her voice. "Funny, because I think, from what my father told me, they were vampires"
Nicky quirked an eyebrow. As Xander just looked at her with surprise on his face.
"I think you'd better come with me" Isabelle said, "I think my father would like to meet you"
Xander was just about able to nod.
Shasa Courtney was nearly 80 years old yet held himself with the grace of a much younger man. Over one eye he had a patch of black silk, his large frame was clothed in a white tuxedo and black tie, in fact he looked every bit the rich man he was. Coming from, and building, one of the most powerful and influential families in South Africa had not been easy, so now he was quiet happy to enjoy the peace that the only truly rich can achieve. He had spent some time in office, political office that was, and had been a driving force in his younger days. Now he was happy in his retirement, enjoying the simple things in life. Such as running the most popular vineyard in South Africa and holding court over the swelling Courtney Family.
He had been at a party held in honor of the new accord that was sweeping Africa. Segregation of Black/White peoples had ended; apartheid was dead, thankfully. He was of the old school, but had always been less than happy about that abomination to humanity. Now that Mandela was in charge he was more than happy to slip out of office and let a new government deal with this new South Africa. His family, who had originally haled from England, had been there throughout the later part of South African History. Had built Johannesburg with gold and sweat. Hunters, entrepreneurs and adventures flowed through his veins.
His crowning achievement in his opinion was his beautiful daughter Isabelle, he would do anything to make sure she didn't come to harm. So when he had been called to her, he had gone to her. It was that simple. She called, he came. Never in his wildest dreams would he have expected the story he had just been told. Nor that the young man now standing nervously in front of him, his rough clothing giving him an almost vagrant feel. He did not with some wry amusement that the young American in front of him was wearing an eye patch. But where his own made him, according to his many lady friends of early years, look rakishly handsome. The American in front of him look Piratical and dangerous.
He also owed this young man a debt of extreme gratitude. He had saved his little girl. Never mind if she was now a powerful, beautiful woman with a child of her own, she would always be his little girl. Of to one side stood Nicholas, her son. A good looking man, dark hair and a strange cross of Courtney and Hispanic looks that made him very popular with the ladies. He was the latest Courtney, his direct heir now. His history was, however, potted with tragedy and sorrow. They had saved him from his father who had seduced his little girl into first marriage and then birth. He had held Nicky as hostage to make Isabelle act not only against her country but also her family. It had been a very trying time, especially the few years after they had reclaimed their blood. Now though he was a true Courtney, and he was strangely proud to say, was the reason the American had a bruised jaw.
So Shasa Courtney had listened to the story of this mans saving of his daughter from something that shouldn't exist. Unless of course, even now you knew they did through his numerous contacts within the government of course. So he knew they did, as did his daughter, now a politician in her own right and high up in her party.
"So, Xander was it?" Shasa said finally, after a long pause, "How is it you came to know of Vampires?"
At first, getting the information out of the young American had been difficult to say the least. But Shasa was nothing if not charming and persuasive. Then two hours later he wished he hadn't asked.
All of which had been the start of a very unusual partnership. Xander had been told by the elder man in no uncertain terms that he didn't appreciate the English poking their noses in. Which he had then taken the sting out of by telling him that they would help HIM, personally, in anyway they could. It turned out that they could help him a LOT.
The Courtney's were POWERFUL, capitals included and had made Xander's life so much easier with Visa's and Passes to wherever he needed to go, his own personal guide, who was still by his side to this day and money, lot's and lot's of money.
Xander smiled with the memory, he had become very close to the family since then and they had virtually adopted him. It was nice to 'belong' again. "Hey Joe" Xander called to his guide. Joseph, A six foot six Zulu that knew the land better than Xander knew his own face.
"Xandman!" the large man said, flashing his gleaming white teeth against the ebony of his skin. He had found out about Xander's nick name from an e-mail long ago from Buffy. It hadn't been the most pleasant email, but it had been the source of Josephs teasing ever since. They had a good working relationship. Xander would always be the one to approach a Slayer, he knew what to do, but in the early days it had been Joseph, when Language had still been a barrier. Xander had found quite the knack for languages since then. But now, Xander would approach the slayer as Joe did the background, got them to where they needed to go and generally made his life as easy as possible.
"How much further?" Xander called out with a smile of his own. The last year in Africa had wrought some large changes in the somewhat plump man that had saved Isabelle Courtney so long ago.
"Just over the next hill" Joe called out with another dazzling smile.
Xander smirked, it was an old joke. A bit like saying Tomorrow never comes. But out here, on the plains of South Africa the nearest hill was often a hundred miles away.
Shaking his head slightly Xander lent on the open canopy of the range rover and let the large man pilot the powerful 4x4 over the terrain and instead turned his attention to the world around him, waiting patiently for his next mission to begin for real.
They pulled into the small village around about nightfall, it was put simply the smallest place that Xander had yet to visit. Most of his finds had been in the various townships. This was the first report of a slayer outside of those areas he'd had.
"Do your thing Joe" he told his large guide, a flash of brilliant teeth in the darkness and the comforting rumble of his friend’s chuckle was the only answer he received or needed.
The Zulu generally didn't think much of the other tribes of Africa, considering themselves to be the better of just about anyone around them. Warrior pride and arrogance ran rife through their culture. Once they had been mercenaries of a sort, tribe for hire, but in a good way. Xander was very lucky to have a modern thinking Zulu as his guide. As well as knowing South Africa well he was also very well versed in the various different peoples throughout the land. This is why he had been picked of course. The Courtney's were nothing if not efficient. In fact it had been Nicky himself that had picked Joseph. After their odd start Xander and the youngest Courtney had become friends, which he had a reason to suspect was mostly due to him saving Isabelle. Many an interesting night had been had in the company of the charismatic Nicky. In fact, Xander had to admit, the man had an almost supernatural ability to get himself into trouble, himself and any one who happened to be with him. As such he had partaken of many a bar fight and night of drunken womanizing, he wasn't ashamed to admit. After Anya there had been no thought of building a relationship, only ending the nightmares by spending sometimes entangled in various and differing limbs.
Joe loomed out of the darkness with what was either the medicine man or chief.
"This is Xander he is from the tribe I told you of wise one" Joe said with respect in the tribe’s language.
Xander recognized it and gave a greeting in stilted but understandable Zulu. "Sabuwona"
Xander had to smile as he was invited to what was most likely a night of smoking some noxious weed and talk.
50 Miles North, Jo'Berg
Two days later and Xander was arriving back at his training camp with yet another slayer in tow. This one was as beautiful as he had come to expect from a slayer. 15 years old and had proved herself to be able to take on any of the other warriors single handedly. If that wasn't proof enough, he had performed the spell he had been taught before leaving England.
Strangely enough, it was a spell that even he was unable to mess up. That is not to say it was the only one however. Since being in the plains he had met with many medicine men and magical users. He had talked to demonic tribes that had roamed the land since the dawn of time, had on one occasion been forced to under go the rite of passage for a tribe he visited. This, among other things had involved a ritual hunt. A hunt that had caused him to be mauled by a lion. Not badly, luckily, but it had still be a shock to be in the jaws of such an amazing beast, a soft ultrasonic rumble had made him feel almost relaxed even with his thigh in the predators mouth.
Of course, he had passed the ritual and bagged another slayer for the watchers. But it had also caused him to have to limp for the rest of his life. It had also been one of the most comfortable months of his life when he had been forced under the Courtney's care. He had convalesced at their home, surrounded by lush vines and the splendor of old money. He had talked with Shasa quite a lot, learned of his adventures and been told some of the history of the family. A grand and sweeping history stretching all the way back into England. He had suggested that Shasa should write it all down into books, that the story itself was worthy of a bestseller. For which he was thanked by Isabelle. Shasa had taken his suggestion to heart and had begun to write the family history under an assumed name. Isabelle had been thankful because it had put the spark back into her father, given him something to do. Despite his protestations to the contrary it appeared that Shasa was as bored as bored can get.
If Xander was any judge, the Courtney's would soon be even richer than they were to begin with. He had also been taught to shoot a gun straight, box in the old style and a host of other bits and pieces to keep him from going mad during his enforced inaction. The Courtney's were also the main reason why he was able to dodge the long arm of the Council and stay in Africa.
Xander slipped out of his 4x4, leaving Joe to take the young slayer and introduce her to the training team, and limped gamely over to his office. It was always his first stop when coming back to the complex. Office, Shower, Sleep, food if he had time, and back out on the road to the next Slayer in need. It had been that way for a year. No deviation other than his all too frequent visits by Nicky, who managed to catch him on the hop more than occasionally and take him out for the night.
When he stepped into his office however, he knew that his peace was about to be shattered once again.
There in his office was a grim and stern looking Isabelle Courtney and sat by her side was none other than the leader of the Watcher's Council. Sir Rupert Giles. He had been given a knighthood shortly after Xander had left, partly because of Xander's actions in fact. Because once they had proof positive that Vampires existed, the Courtney's had mobilized. The South African government was one of Xander's biggest backers, the complex had been built by them for the training of African slayers. It was of course very hush hush, and even through Xander worked for the Council, he was essential under the governments care now. So the through the government, The Courtney's had spread out word to the English, the English had talked to the Watcher's and now there was an international awareness of the darkness. Of course, the general public had NO idea, but at high levels of government the existence of demonic kind was now well known. Because of Xander saving Isabelle, Giles had been given a knight hood for his actions and service to the motherland of england and the queen. Not that Giles knew that of course, even if he knew that it was the African government that had started the ball rolling. Although by the look of shock on his face, he had recently found out.
"Isabelle" Xander said with a warm smile for one of his favorite people as the beautiful woman rose and pulled him in to a hug.
She took the opportunity to whisper in his ear, "I'm sorry. But Daddy and I thought this was important"
Xander just kissed the top of her graying hair and enjoyed the embrace for a moment before stepping back and nodding at Giles. "Giles" he said formally.
Giles smiled and stood holding out his hand for the younger man to shake, "Xander; It's good to see you. You look... VERY healthy"
"Thanks" Xander said with reserved calm as he shook his one time mentors hand, "What brings you out here." he asked, cutting through the preamble.
"You do" Giles said simply. "I decided that if Mohamed wouldn't go the the mountain..."
"Were you looking for me then?" Xander asked in all innocence. Which would've been quite convincing if Isabelle hadn't of laughed.
"Yes" Giles said dryly. "Only for the last 6 months or so."
"Well; I've been busy" Xander said limping over to the water cooler and grabbing himself a drink of cool ambrosia.
"I know; quite the record you have there. We only have one other person with your success rate" Giles told him.
"Oh?" Xander asked in a bored tone of voice. He didn't much care for the figures side of things, all he cared about was getting out into the African bush again. "So, what did you want?" he asked bluntly. "I've got to go 600 miles over the next few days" he said glancing down at some headed notepaper with his next contact on it. "So I really need to get going!"
"I've arranged for someone else to meet with her" Isabelle said drawing a frown from Xander.
She held up a hand to stem his indignant flow that she knew was coming, "I promise this is worth your while."
"Okay, so what's the what?"
Giles's lipped quirked at the once familiar turn of phrase, the voice of lost youth, "Due to your successes you've become rather a legend in our circles. We have need of the skills that made you so legendary."
Xander snorted, "It's not me; If not for Isabelle, Nicky and Shasa I would still be looking for Maggie."
Maggie, strangely enough was the name of the first slayer he had ever tracked down in South Africa, and was now the wife of his good friend and guide.
"I think not" Isabelle said, her perfect English sounding strange against her quite thick South African Accent. "If not for you, Maggie would now be dead"
The Demonic slave ring that had found Maggie first had been most interested in her skills and had her put to work as a pit fighter. It was true that Xander had saved her from that fate, deep in the bush in that terrible fighting ring, but by the same token. If not for the Courtney's facilities he would never have arrived on time to save her from the eight Polgaran, starved lion and elephant that were in the ring with her. It had been a fairly simple snatch and run like hell kinda plan but one that had worked, thank god.
Xander waived off the compliment and focused on Giles, "You want me to leave Africa?" he asked incredulously, after all that must be the point.
"Yes" Giles said, "For a while at least"
"No way; I've got fa.... Friends here"
Isabelle smiled at his almost slip, it was good that he considered them family, for the reverse was certainly true. Nicky had found a brother in Xander and had taken him hand, according to Nicky, and the two had the most amazing ability to get into scrapes.
"I realize that Xander, but we NEED you!" Giles told him earnestly.
"There's nothing special about me; ask Buffy" he said alluding to one of Buffy's parting shots after a huge argument caused by his shooting of certain cheating school teachers.
Giles winced, obviously getting the reference. For himself, he wished they had never sent Xander out here in disgrace. Being who he was, he had turned around and proved them all wrong. And Giles had to admit, despite his over reaction, Robin had been in the wrong. They all had, for not standing by him, their oldest friend and instead standing up for Robin. The trouble was, at the time, they honestly thought that Xander was burnt out. That his reaction had been a sort of jealousy fueled attack. Jealous because Robin was such a good fighter, had been so instrumental in the fight against the First and because Robin, was not burnt out. Even the serious injury that Robin had sustained back in Sunnydale had healed quickly, leaving him fully capable of work. Leaving Xander, they had thought, thinking that he was no longer needed.
How very wrong they had all been about that. First of all, Xander had obviously been nowhere near being burnt out, one look at the figures made that obvious, and Robin had not been as much of an asset as they had at first believed.
"Xander, please what happened in the past, should have no relation on current events" Giles told him.
Xander shook his head, draining the plastic cup, and getting out two more. Then he fished in his drawer, "Isabelle?" he asked
Knowing what he was asking, Isabelle just nodded. Xander then reached into his draw and pulled out a bottle of single malt and poured a shot into each of the cups. "Here" he said to Giles, "It helps with the heat"
Giles nodded thankfully, he was sweating profusely, and also it was he hoped a sign that he was getting through to the young man. He took the opportunity to examine Xander over the lip of his cup. He wasn't lying when he said Xander look healthy. The climate apparently suited him. He was bronzed, his dark hair had grown some what back to the style he had first known him to have. Where he had been somewhat plump after Sunnydale he was now lean, and from his rolled up sleeves. Giles could see that there were cords of muscle on his arms now. He was dressed in khaki throughout, his shirt undone for the first few buttons and he could just make out what looked to be a leather bag hung around his neck.
"I'm happy here, I have a purpose" Xander said after taking a sip of his drink.
Isabelle shifted forward on her chair, "A purpose that is very important; however, I have been talking with Sir Giles and we both agree that your needed elsewhere now."
"Trying to get rid of me?" Xander asked with a wry grin.
"Xander!" She admonished, "No!" she told him, "You're a part of our family now, we respect you and your abilities. You are like a younger brother to Nicky, you know that. If this were for anything else, we'd make damn sure you stayed with us."
Xander smiled warmly at her, "That means a lot" he told her, "It's also another reason I don't want to leave. You DO respect my abilities and achievements."
"I'm sorry for that, I truly am" Giles cut in, "It's not until recently now that the dust has settled somewhat that we've been able to have a good hard look at what has happened in the past."
Xander poured himself another dr5ink and tipped it towards the others two, who both shook their heads, "Well Giles, That's grand and all, but so what?" Xander said, "I was sent out here, no banished out here, and guess what I'm quite happy to be banished. I don't want to come back to england. I'm home"
"We need your skills"
"What skills?" Xander asked, "I'm not big on the funnies anymore, I've pretty much forgotten what a donut even looks like, so I don't see what you need me for?"
Giles looked angrily at him, "Those achievements you mentioned before are the skills we need. Increasingly finding Slayer's is becoming more difficult, but even more importantly we are coming up against situations that our other teams are not able to handle. You experiences out here are what makes you perfect for the job."
"And what job is that?"
"We want you to become a sort of trouble shooter. We'll send you our most difficult cases, because you are the one most likely, with your partner, to be able to bring them in."
"Partner?" Xander asked, "Who?"
"I'll get to that" Giles said, skirting that issue for as long as possible. "What do you say?"
"I say forget it"
"Then you leave me no choice" Giles said with a sigh, "I'm afraid I'll have to remove council support."
Xander glared at him, "What?" he and Isabelle said together.
"We will have to concentrate more resources to the position I just mentioned. Our other teams will need them. Where as you could've carried on without so many resources. I no longer have that option."
Isabelle looked him over icily, "Fine" she told him, "The South African Government will take up the slack. I don't appreciate that sort of ultimatum"
"Hang on Issy" Xander said, using her diminutive and causing her to look at him in shock. He rarely was so informal in company. "Are you serious?"
Giles nodded wearily, "This is becoming a very serious problem for us. I have to do something."
"These girls mean that much?"
"They do, we've had reports of rogues slayers, super criminals and all sorts. That is a very bad thing for the council. We need to get to these girls as quickly as possible, not spent weeks and sometimes months finding and bringing them in."
"You think I'll do any better?" Xander asked intently.
"Yes" Giles said pleadingly, "Please do this for us Xander."
Xander sat back with a creak, looking up at the ceiling fan for a long moment as Isabelle fumed in her chair.
"Miss Courtney, I apologize for appearing to be using heavy handed tactics" Giles said, taking advantage of Xander's momentary tuning out to talk to the powerful woman beside him, "I wasn't. This is our last best chance to properly deal with the situation. We can not afford for these girls to be going rogue. People have already died, police in some cases. These girls are supposed to be on the side of the angels, but without proper guidance they are being led astray by other organizations and individuals who see them only as a means to an end."
Isabelle Courtney looked into the elder Englishman's eyes for a long moment before giving a curt nod, letting him off of the hook; this time.
"Okay" Xander said after his thoughts had collected into a decision, "Okay I'll do it."
Giles smiled happily, "Thank you"
"But if I hear you've pulled support..."
"... I won't" Giles said cutting him off, "We won't. That is our last ditch plan. I hope that it won't come to that now."
"Who are you going to replace me with. If you say Andrew I will shot you"
Giles laughed, "No, I have an old friend of my Robert Longstien, he has knowledge of this country and will be a poor replacement, but the best we can do."
"There's no need to lick my boots Giles, I said I'm going to help" Xander said with a chuckle.
Giles just glared at him for a moment, "I wasn't. You've done amazing things out here. The slayers that come over are very well balanced and prepared for what lay ahead of them. They also, all, rave about you!" he said with a hint of amusement creeping into his voice.
Xander laughed slightly and then poured them all a drink, "Okay then, From out of Africa!" he said raising his glass or plastic cub anyway. "To dreary old england, here I come"
"Amen to that" Giles said gulping back the burning liquid.
Isabelle just sipped her whiskey her mind whirring, wondering what they, her family, could do to make this easier for their adoptive family member. Whatever it was, she'd have to send it on to him in London. She smirked slightly as one plan occurred to her, she needed to call her son and tell him that Xander was leaving the country. She was sure that he would have something to say about Xander sneaking off into the night as it were.
The Next day, Xander had collected his meager belongings and was getting ready to leave. He'd said goodbye to nearly everybody. There was but one person left.
"Joe!" Xander called out to the large man.
Joe turned around, looking solemn, "Xandman"
"Hey, I guess you heard then?"
Joe just nodded.
"I wanted to talk to you..." he trailed off. Both men had saved each others lives, it was a bond that went beyond words.
"I will miss you little brother"
"NGIYABONGA" Xander said
"SIYANIKHUMBULA" Joe told him.
Xander held out his hand for the other man to shake. They shook firmly and then Xander pulled the surprised guide in for a manly hug. It was rare, even in these more enlightened times for a white man to embrace a Zulu as brother.
"Perhaps I should come with you" Joe said stepping back with that gleaming smile on his face.
"Look after the INDLEBE ZIKHAYI LANG that come after me. Don't let them burn in the sun." Xander told him with a laugh. Turning and walking away to his jeep.
"SOBONANA FUTHI" Joe called out.
Xander half turned and repeated it back at him, "SOBONANA MASINYANE Joe"
He arrived at the jeep to find that Giles and Isabelle were already waiting for him. "Come on" he said in a sad voice. "Let's go"
Xander was due to meet with Giles the next afternoon for a flight back to England for his debrief and the mission briefing. It was a strange sense of coincidence that he was staying not only in the same hotel, but room as he had when he'd arrived. It was a sort of full circle type thing.
A loud knock at the door disturbed his brooding; he really didn't want to leave.
He walked over to the door and opened it, a smile blossoming on his face, "Nicky you old reprobate, what are doing here?"
"Well, when I heard my little brother was leaving the country I had to come and see him off" the elder man said with a twinkle in his eye, "I could hardly let you go without saying goodbye" he said in a more serious tone.
"Come in" Xander said smiling.
"No, actually, come out" Nicky said. "I've got a surprise for you." Nicky said with a gleam in his eye.
Xander almost groaned, somehow, he knew that he was going to feel like hell the next day.
Giles glanced down at his watch for the tenth time in the last three minutes. Xander, had not been in his room, nor had he arrived to meet him as per arrangement, and now time was getting VERY short.
Just then a raucous cacophony of sound reached his ears and he turned to find that Xander and a small group were approaching his position.
Giles rolled his eyes. He'd been warned that Nicholas De Santiago-Courtney was a playboy and considered Xander something of a little brother. He should have known that the man would've pulled a stunt like this. Xander and Nicky were leaning on each other, a woman dangling from each mans arms. All four were drunk as skunks if Giles was any judge and making quite the racket about it as well.
"YOHOO" Xander called out, "It's Rip... Rip... Ripper and away" he said, causing his companions to fold up in hysterical giggles. "Hey sir G-man."
"Xander" Giles said in a flat voice, "You're late"
"Uh huh, Blame Nicky"
The youngest Courtney smiled drunkenly, "It's my entire fault" he said with all outward appearance of sincerity.
"Come along, we've a flight to catch." Giles said shortly.
The woman currently hanging off of Xander's arm let out a disappointed whine and clutched the young man tighter, before planting one on him. After a few moments Giles was forced to clear his throat as last call had just been signaled.
Thankfully, the woman then left Xander along, moving to Nicky's other side. The two men faced each other and their drunkenness seemed to melt. Then after a warm handshake Xander turned, a little wobbly to Giles and nodded.
He was finally ready to go.
From the minute he was off of the plane, Xander had been cold. He had forgotten just how bloody miserable London was during winter, and it wasn't even the worst part of england. He hated this country with a passion, the weather, even the TV. Luckily, from his short conversation with Giles on the plane over, he wasn't likely to be here for very long.
He slipped out of the black cab and tossed his money at the driver with a off hand, "Keep the change" and walked to the entrance of the brand new and very modern looking Council of Watchers HQ.
He was greeted at the swanky reception desk by a pretty blond who he flashed a large, charming smile, "Hi, I'm Xander Harris" he told her and before he got any further the blond was all of a flutter.
"Mr Harris, THE Mr Harris"
"Well, I think there are others" Xander said in a bemused fashion, "I'm here to see Sir Giles"
"Of course, sir, please follow me" the receptionist said, getting up from her desk and personally leading him through the office complex.
Xander had to give Giles credit. When he set out to modernize the Council, he sure went and did it and not by halves either.
He was escorted over to the elevator and ushered inside, the pretty blond then came in with him and hit a number at the top of the shop. She then proceeded to toss coy glances his way for the entire journey, before, just before reaching their destination she finally managed to say what was on her mind.
"Is it true?" she said in a rush.
"What?" Xander asked mildly.
"That you fought a lion."
"No" Xander told her, "I was more; sitting in for its chew toy"
"Wow, a real Lion. Was it close?" she asked.
"Very" Xander replied dryly, "Want to see?"
The blond just nodded, then blushed as he fiddled with his belt.
"There" he said dropping his trousers to his knees. "You can see what I mean now right?"
The blond leaned over to take a closer look, her finger reaching out to trace the puncture marks the lions teeth had made. Eventually dropping to one knee before him. "Wow, that's so big"
That, of course, was when the elevator doors opened.
Equally unsurprisingly, there were half a dozen people waiting for the arrival of the car.
"I don't believe it. The first day back and you've already started a scandal. Do you delight in making my life more difficult?" Giles demanded with angry eyes and voice.
Xander glared right back at him, "She was just looking at my scars"
"It that a euphemism?" Giles demanded.
"No, it's an actual-ism" Xander said, "I was bitten by a lion remember!"
"Yes" Giles said with a calming breath, "You were at that. Did it hurt?" he asked suddenly curious.
"Of course it fucking hurt!" Xander replied with a bark of a laughter, "it's got three inch long incisors. What do you think?"
"No, of course, I only meant I had heard about a sound they make"
"Ph, right, yeah it hurt but no I wasn't actually that scared."
"Hmm" Giles said with a thoughtful expression. "Anyway, back to business."
"Yeah, so when do I get to meet this partner then?"
"Shortly, they are due here at any..." Knock Knock, "Moment" Giles finished, "Come"
The door opened and Xander's face dropped, "You have GOT to be shitting me!"
"Well hello yourself."
Three Day's Earlier
Faith almost rolled her eyes as she yet again ducked under the girls flailing arms. She was pretty sure she was being called just about every single name under the sun; not that she understood a word of it of course. It had taken her three weeks to track down this baby slayer. Three long, arduous weeks of cold weather and very little in the way of leads.
This was her fiftieth retrieval. It was also, possibly the hardest so far. Not only had the girl been hard to track in the first place, she was also in denial and worst of all she was the girlfriend of the local mobster. The Russian mafia was no laughing matter.
They were outside the mobster's club, in one of the alley's where Faith had managed to talk the young woman out to. Privacy was always a good idea for breaking them in, but particularly when the boyfriend was likely to take advantage of the situation.
So she'd brought her out into the lovely crisp, freezing cold air, and told her about destiny, about how she was meant for great things, that she was a slayer. Apparently, that had been her first mistake. She'd then gone on to talk about the wave of strength the younger woman, Anna, must've felt, how the dreams must be plaguing her and that is when Anna had blown her top.
Thus the long string of Russian expletives and trying to take her raven haired head off. It seemed that Anna didn't like the fact she was a slayer. Hated the dreams she had been having and apparently had received a severe beating for accidentally hurting her boyfriend’s dick during intercourse, which they had been partaking off when the spell had been performed. Now Anna was lying at Faith’s front door, and she was starting to get more than a little pissed off with the whole idea.
For the last year she had been traveling around the world, mostly Europe and connected countries. She didn't much like flying, and generally went by road, thus limiting her options. She tended to get the more difficult retrieval missions, such as this one where it was hard to find the girl in the first place. Which, apparently, was because of her boyfriend.
Anna finally managed to land a blow, cutting Faith's lip and making her angry. Just then the side door to the club opened and the mammoth Dimitri was silhouetted in the light spilling out from the club. "What is this?" he demanded in accented English.
"Ahh fuck" Faith breathed as a flash of nickel plate caught the light. She dropped to the floor, taking Anna with her as a bullet winged off of the brickwork, sending shards of brick raining down into her hair.
Anna was still struggling but was even more desperate to finish the fight now. Faith used her position on top for leverage and greater experience to knock the girl cold before lifting her in a fireman's carry and sprinting out of the alley. A hail of bullets followed her out, one clipping the ground by her foot and scaring her to greater feats of speed.
Moving at a fair clip Faith stumbled slightly as she turned the corner out of the alley, sending her to her knees and skidding along the iced floor for a moment. Her knees bleeding where the ice had cut through her jeans she stood fluidly still, and zig zagged her way towards her rental car. Somehow, she knew she wasn't getting her deposit back. Especially when a stray bullet put out the back window. Moving as fast as she could she unlocked the car and dumped Anna into the back seat and dived over the car to the driver’s side. Luckily she had because the wing mirror on the passenger side shattered into a million pieces as the bullet meant for her hit it instead.
She almost ripped off the door and slid behind the wheel in a single motion, quickly inserting the key and gunning the engine to life.
One short chase through Moscow later and she's in her hotel room with an unconscious slayer, a broken up car and a lot of explaining to do.
Faith's hands gripped the arm rest tightly, a death grip of fear as the large engines rumbled into high gear and she was forced back into her seat. She had called into Giles that she had retrieved the slayer she had been sent for. It was then that he told her that he NEEDED her back in england as soon as was humanly possible and told her that an airplane ticket was waiting for her at the local airport. She'd tried to get out of it, in the most casual way possible of course, but he hadn't let her. Apparently she was needed in a meeting in three days time or else.
So she had to grin and bear it. The plastic under her hands folded ever so slowly as the plane lifted into the air.
It wasn't so bad when the plane was in the air, it was just the taking off and landing she hated. So once the plane leveled off she slowly released her grip on the chair's arms leaving very distinct finger prints embedded in the plastic.
She wasn't sure what the meeting was going to be about, but she hoped she wasn't going to have to face Robin Wood again. Six months ago they had broken up. Almost to the day, last month, just before leaving for Russia in fact, she had been in a planning meeting that had been run by Wood himself. It had not been the most pleasant experience in her life. For one thing, there was the guilt, guilt for what she had done. For she had cheated on him when she had been in Italy on the mission before hand. Their relationship hadn't been the same somehow since they had got back from the 'Dale. The heat seemed to have leaked out of it. But to her knowledge Robin hadn't cheated on her, no it was her bad that time. She'd gone and screwed up a perfectly good relationship just because the guy was a, cute, b, available, and c, well she wasn't sure there was a c if she were honest with herself.
Robin, had of course, understandably even, cut off the relationship after she had, god damn it, tearfully admitted her crime. She was trying to change, and that had taken a lot for her to do. Strangely he hadn't been that mad, just gave her a disappointed look and told her it was over. She was vaguely insulted by that but to give him his due, he hadn't hit her or screamed and shouted. To be honest the relationship had been on the rocks anyway, stagnant in fact.
"Would you like a drink" the air stewardess voice shook her from her thoughts.
She looked up at the other woman and smiled slightly, "Yeah, can I have beer"
"What sort" the stewardess asked
Faith rolled her eyes, ask that question in America and get thrown a bud, over here you have to go through a list of ninety different blends of beer, "Budweiser" she said
Faith cut in before she got going. "Just a Bud" she said with a glacial smile.
Faith closed her eyes and put on her personal stereo. She hated the piped music they usually played on planes. Not that she'd heard even that for a while. It had been something like a year since she had been on a plane. Not since traveling over after Sunnydale became a hole in the ground.
Her bud arrived in quick time and as she listened to some, believe it or not mood music, she sipped on her beer and looked out of the window her full lips pursed in thought. The woman looking back out of the window was not the same woman that had left the 'dale a smoking crater. She had seen quite a few things since then, slayed most of them. She had saved girls from terrible lives and broken up a few good lives. She had seen parts of the world she had only ever read about back when she was in prison. Learned to speak Italian in Italy. Argued with a French taxi driver in fluent French. Been chased through the ruins in Rome by a hoard of angry hell hounds with B at her side.
She had even visited Willow in Switzerland and entered a different dimension all together. In was funny in a way, she was now pretty close to the old gang from the dale, but the gang itself was spread far and wide throughout the world.
Willow was in Switzerland with Kennedy running a school for magic. Buffy was in Italy enjoying the good life or high fashion and funny coffee, oh and doing a bit of slaying on the side. Dawn was in England, Oxford to be exact. Xander, now there was a strange thought.
To this day she had no idea what had happened to cause Xander to shoot wood in the leg. Robin had sure been made enough about it, but strangely reticent to talk about the circumstances surrounding the event. She'd asked the others, but they had told her to ask Wood. There was something off about that entire situation, not that she'd thought about it in a while. After all, Xander was in Africa, and apparently was topping her on the retrieved slayer's score sheet, which was as much thought as she generally spared him. It wasn't like they were close, even before he'd shot her boyfriend.
Well apart from her trying to kill him of course. She briefly wondered if that was why he had attacked Robin, as a sort of revenge against her, not that it made all that much sense, but vengeance rarely does.
She should know, she had been so jealous of Buffy at one point she was willing to kill the one person who later on would be her savior. Life had a strange sense of humor if you asked her.
Her eyelids started to droop, the soothing sounds coming through her headphones doing the work they were made for. If anyone knew she was listening to Enya they would doubtless revoke her metal head chick status. But, when she was flying she needed something soothing. Something to let her slip silently into slumber.
Faith sauntered into the reception with her usual grace, like a lioness on the hunt.
"Hey Mary" she said as she reached the counter. She noticed that the Blond receptionist seemed to be almost puce red. "You okay?" she asked.
"Yes Miss Faith, I'm fine, are you here to see Sir Giles"
"That I am."
"If you'll follow me" Mary said moving out from behind the desk.
As she led Faith through the ground floor office to the elevator that ran all the way up the building, Faith couldn't help but notice there was a certain amount of snickering going on. At first she thought it was her. Until they reached the lift, and as the doors were about to close someone called out. "Hey Mary, I hear you giving a head in business."
The poor woman then flushed almost neon red.
Faith just raised an eyebrow and decided that she just didn't want to know.
The ride up in the elevator was silent, not that Faith minded, she liked the quiet. Especially after having to brave the London traffic from her council paid flat on the other side of Oxford. London was bad enough in a car, on a bike it was murder.
Once the car arrived at its destination she bid her farewell to Mary and strutted along to Giles's corner office. Knocking on the doorway she heard a curt "Come" and she walked in.
"You have GOT to be shitting me!"
"Well hello yourself." Faith said with wry humor, not realizing who she was talking to yet. Then the black, silk she noted, eye patch gave her a clue.
"Xander!" she said, shocked, then in a moment of annoyance she crossed the room and slapped him one. "That's for shooting my boyfriend" she said in an angry voice.
Xander rolled with the, light for a slayer, slap and stood fluidly. Then with a smile on his face he returned it. "That's for trying to choke me to death" he told the shocked Faith.
Giles looked up at the ceiling in supplication, "Well, this is off to a grand start" he murmured to himself.
Xander turned to Giles with a gleam in his eye, "THIS is my partner?" he accused.
"Yes, well quite" Giles said, "That is the plan"
"I'm going back to Africa" Xander announced and started to make his way past Faith.
"Stop him" Giles said calmly.
Faith moved to do as she was told, only to find herself lying on her back with a HUGE knife at her throat, "Don't" Xander said in a deathly quiet tone that sent chills down Giles's back.
Faith jack knifed her body, her legs wrapping around Xander's middle and sending him off balance to the left, rolling she landed on top of him with the knife in her hand and now at his throat instead, "Will you quit it already!” she said in a tone of annoyance.
Xander mumbled something that sounded vaguely Zulu to Giles and Faith let out a yelp and threw away the knife like it was on fire. Xander took advantage of her momentary distraction and jack knifed his body sending the slender woman toppling off to the side. The two got to their feet at the same time and faced off.
"STOP!" Giles thundered, "THAT IS ENOUGH!"
Faith was the first to straighten out, she had learned a lot of self control in the last year and had also come to respect Giles as well in that time. He had been nothing but courteous of her and her achievements and had pulled string after string to remove the conviction that hung over her head. She was free because of herself, she had remained free because of Sir Rupert Giles.
Xander on the other hand, had lost all respect for Giles and any of his old friends, but he did straighten up, his eyes casting around for the large bowie knife. One he spotted it he picked it up and slipped it back in its sheath. Giles didn't even want to know how he had managed to get that back in the country.
"If you two are to be working together, I suggest you stop this foolishness now" Giles said in a quiet voice that held a wealth of command in its intonations.
Faith nodded and sat in the chair that Xander had vacated. Xander took one look at her and snorted slightly. "Ladies first" she told him. If they had been a few years younger Giles was sure that she would've been sticking out her tongue.
Xander folded his arms across his chest and leaned nonchalantly back against the office wall, his expression bored.
"You two are the best I've got" Giles said with no more preamble, "We've got a problem and you two ARE going to solve it for us."
"What's up g?" Faith asked, leaning forward and looking at Giles intently.
"Rogues are becoming more and more of a problem. We aren't getting to the problem spots fast enough and even when we do, most of our operatives are woefully unprepared to deal with them. You two, however, have the best records for bringing back Slayer's from shall we say less than salubrious of places"
Xander snorted again, drawing Faith's glare. He just looked back at her with a mild smile on his face. She was more than a little shocked at the changes wrought in the young man she had last seen a year ago. 365 days might not seem like a long time, but it was obvious he had filled them. His clothing was an almost atypically adventurer's outfit, khaki slacks and shirt, Leather jacket and tough looking boots. All he needed was a hat and a whip and he'd pass for Harrison Ford. Well, not really, but with that patch on his eyes, his longer hair and the fact he obviously hadn't shaved in the last few days, there was a certain rough charisma to him. But the outward changes were not the only ones she had noticed. For one thing, back in the dale there was NO way he would've been able to take her down like he had. Admittedly she hadn't expected that sort of reaction, but still she was a slayer. It seemed he had picked up a trick or two. She flexed her hand, the hand that she had thought was on fire when she'd had his knife in it. He glanced down at the unblemished skin, more than a few tricks, she decided.
"So you what, want us to become you're Mulder and Scully?" Faith asked. "Take the cases you think no one else can?"
"Essentially yes" Giles said over Xander's laughter. He glared at the laughing young man, "What is so funny?" he asked with iron in his tone.
"Oh nothing. I'm just surprised is all"
"About what?" Faith asked.
"I never took you for an X-Files girl" he told her with a flash of pearly white teeth.
Faith smiled slightly, "There's a lot you don't know" she said curtly to hide her smile.
"There's a lot I do know. I can't trust you for one" Xander said sharply, his smile erasing like it had never been there, "You want me to work with someone who tried to kill me?" He asked Giles. "You're out of your gourd!" Xander continued mercilessly, "I think I'll go home and take my chances with an enraged Lioness thanks" he said moving to leave.
"Xander, don't walk out" Giles said, stopping him, "I know that you and Faith have a somewhat colorful past, but the fact is you're the best we've got. People will DIE if you walk out of that door"
Xander turned back with a sigh, "There's no need to be theatrical"
"I'm not" Giles said simply. "The first mission we have lined up for you is a black market operation, selling Slayer's."
That brought him up short, "What?"
"Slayer's are very powerful, magically and physically. They bring a high price as slaves, breeding stock; spell components etc" Giles said his face scrunched up like he was eating a lemon. "Quite distasteful to say the least. Some of the girls may be killed outright, others will be forced to do unspeakable things. We think that there is a ring of demons operating it. I'll give you the details later, but first do we have a team to send out?" he looked from Faith to Xander.
Faith nodded straight away. Xander's eye was dark with thought but eventually he nodded, "Okay, on a trail basis!" he stressed afterwards.
Faith smirked, "I'll be gentle with you I promise."
Xander ignored her, "So where are we going?"
"Italy. You'll be meeting with Buffy who will help you on site"
"Oh for the love of god" Xander said with a disgusted voice, "You have GOT to be JOKING ME!"