Willow's body froze in shock. The second her eyes met Wesley's she forgot that she was in the White House, having a meeting with the President of the United States. She forgot that the secret life she had spent so much time and effort trying to keep hidden was no longer a secret. All she could focus on was Wesley, and the pain and memories that came with seeing him.
The last time she had seen Wesley was, well, before the battle when he, Angel, along with Percy and the more athletic members of the Sunnydale senior class were preparing to face the vampires they had known the Mayor would bring to Graduation. Willow's memories after the battle, and the subsequent days, were nothing but a blur to her. The pain she had been in when she realised Xander, Oz and Buffy were gone had been so intense, so all consuming, that her mind had blocked most of those following days out.
Willow never really found out what happened to Wesley. She vaguely remembered Giles saying he survived, but beyond that Willow didn't look into it any further. Just like she didn't with Percy. It was wrong, she knew that, but there were things that were just too painful to face. Meeting with any of the Sunnydale Survivors, beyond her friends, was at the top of that list.
Now, he was here, standing in front of her and... God, the pain she felt was crippling. For reasons Willow couldn't quite understand seeing Wesley was more painful than talking to Percy. Maybe it was because Daniel, her team and the Fang Gang had been with her then. Maybe it was because she only spoke to Percy on the phone, whereas here she was staring into Wesley's eyes.
His sympathetic, understanding, pain filled eyes.
"Miss Rosenberg..." Wesley took a step towards her but stopped when she held up her hand.
She hadn't known, liked or respected Wesley all that much back in Sunnydale, but it was different now. She didn't know him, nor did she like him, but he fought by their side against the Mayor. He had survived, so she respected him and it was for that reason she didn't want him to come any closer, because she didn't know how to handle this. She wanted to hug him, apologise, beg for his forgiveness, tell him that he had been right and that they should have kept the Box of Gavrock instead of trading it for her life. If he came any closer she would blurt it out. Well, it was one of the reasons she didn't want him to come any closer. The other was that she desperately needed time to pull it together.
While she had momentarily forgotten where she was and why she was here, her training made it impossible to completely forget and she knew she couldn't lose it now. God, she wanted to run from Wesley. She wanted to go back to her friends and family. She didn't want to face him or the memories he brought to the fore.
Nor did she want to face why
he was here.
Willow closed her eyes and took a deep breath, silently willing herself to keep it together and to focus on what was important. As much as she wanted to cry like a baby, there was too much at stake... and too many questions to be asked. So she focused on that. Why was Wesley here? He was her representation, and the last time she had seen him he had been a Watcher. Willow couldn't remember Giles saying anything about Wesley's fate, beyond surviving, after Sunnydale. Was he still a Watcher? If so, then that meant the Watcher's Council had sent him here.
And didn't that thought make her heart stop.
If Wesley was still with the Watcher's Council, that meant that they obviously knew she was a part of the Air Force. It also meant that they had taken an interest in her, an interest that went beyond casual. It didn't make sense. Colonel Hollows had said she was not under any obligations to answer the President's questions. The President
! How was that possible? What the hell kind of treaty did the Watcher's Council, or at the very least the British Government, have with the SGC? And why would she be covered by it? Why would the Watcher's Council care whether or not the military found out she was a witch? She was retired, formally retired if she was completely honest with herself. Why would Watcher's Council go to so much hassle for a former Scooby? Why did they care? Willow froze when the answer slammed into her. Faith.
Faith loved Willow. More than once the Slayer had stated that she felt responsible for Willow's wellbeing. Willow knew that Faith had survivor's guilt, just as much as Willow did. She knew the dark haired Slayer felt an obligation to look out for her now that Buffy was gone. Willow shuddered to think about what that meant, what this
"Oh shit." The curse slipped out before Willow could stop herself and her eyes snapped open. She resisted the urge to inwardly groan when she saw that every single man in the room was looking at her. The President and Joint Chiefs were all watching her with great interest. Colonel Hollows and Wesley, however, were looking at her with less interest, but much more sympathy and understanding.
"Are you all right, Lieutenant?"
She looked at President Hayes. "I'm fine, sir." It was a bald faced lie.
"All right, now that Mr Wyndham-Price is here, perhaps we can begin," President Hayes said.
Willow froze and she just knew she had that deer in headlights look on her face, but she couldn't say a word. She didn't know what was going on, who to trust, and what Wesley's presence meant for her friends.
"Actually, Mr President," Wesley began, his eyes not leaving Willow. "I would like a moment to speak to Willow privately before we commence the meeting."
Yes, that was a good idea. Willow so very much wanted to talk to Wesley as well, although she doubted they would receive the privacy they would both need. She wanted answers and she wanted to know what the hell the Council were doing, but she had no doubt that even if they were left alone they would be under some sort of surveillance. She looked over to the President. He didn't look too happy with the request, neither did the Joint Chiefs.
President Hayes looked as though he was going to argue, but Willow cut him off before he could say anything. "Sir, before we start the meeting there are a few people that need to be here." The cat was already out of the bag, that much was clear, and Willow, well, she had never wanted back up as much as she wanted it now.
"And who would they be, Lieutenant?"
She hesitated. "Sir, you mentioned that General O'Neill contacted you after we asked him for personnel." It was naive of them to think O'Neill would keep their request a secret. Actually, it was more than naive, it was unfair. There was no way O'Neill could keep a potential foothold situation a secret from his superiors and it had been wrong of them to ask that of him.
"I think General O'Neill should be here, along with an SG team." Willow knew she would feel a hell of a lot better with people she trusted at her back.
The President stared studied her thoughtfully. "If there is a demon problem, we have military teams who specialise in that field on stand-by. They're highly trained and waiting for your command."
Oh... Oh that was bad
and she so very much wanted to ask the President exactly what he meant by that, but she didn't have time. At least not now. "I appreciate the offer sir, but I already have a team who specialise in demons and, while I'm sure your Special Forces are highly trained, I'd much prefer SG teams assisting us in this. The situation is complicated, sir."
President Hayes didn't reply to her words, instead it was Colonel Hollows who spoke. "In your experience as a Hunter, is that your recommendation?"
didn't like this. There was something about the way Colonel Hollows worded that question which made her really, really uneasy. "Yes, sir. SR-1 and my, um, Los Angeles Team are well appraised of the situation and we have more than enough, er, Hunters waiting on our command.
President Hayes nodded. "Very well. General O'Neill and a team will be here once you've finished with Mr Wyndham-Price. I'll also have O'Neill send the requested teams to L.A.. Is that everything?"
A wave of fear washed over Willow. That was it? He was accepting her recommendation just like that? Willow didn't know whether to cheer or to run away in fear. "Yes sir."
"You have ten minutes for your meeting."
Willow smiled as an idea began to form in her mind. "We only need six, sir." ~*~*~
Major Evan Lorne winced as General O'Neill let loose a string of curses that was, quite frankly, impressive as hell. Even though he hadn't been privy to half of the conversation, Lorne knew exactly what was wrong. Rosenberg was missing.
"I'm going to kill that girl," O'Neill muttered as he ran his hand through his hair in frustration. "How the hell
can she go missing with two armed guards?"
Lorne frowned at the words. O'Neill had a point. "She had an escort to the Prometheus."
O'Neill looked at him through narrowed eyes and nodded. "It was the only way they could beam her up."
"And she's been missing for how long?"
"Forty-five minutes at the minimum," O'Neill replied.
"I wonder why we haven't heard from the Prometheus before now," Lorne said, voicing his thoughts. "Wouldn't Pendergast have missed his men before now?"
"He would have," O'Neill conceded.
"Maybe she didn't go missing before she was picked up by the Prometheus," he suggested. "Who, aside from us, and the crew on Prometheus, knew Rosenberg was being transported back here?"
Before O'Neill could answer, the red phone at the side of his desk began to ring. ~*~*~
Willow waited until she was certain that no one was hovering just outside the door before turning back to Wesley. She could see the curiosity in his eyes as well as a little bit of wariness. Now that they were alone, Willow felt her own share of wariness.
"It's Lieutenant Rosenberg now, Wesley," she said in the snappiest tone she could manage. She had a plan, a very lame plan, but it hinged on things happening precisely how she needed them to happen, and that meant Wesley had to think she was pissed by his presence.
Which, if the Watcher's Council was involved, wouldn't be a lie.
"Lieutenant Rosenberg, I'm sure you have a lot of questions."
"More than a few," she agreed as she knelt down next her bag and began rummaging through it, looking for the amulet Angel gave her. Willow grasped the amulet and then stood to look at Wesley, allowing him to have a good look at it. His eyes widened at the sight of it and Willow felt a tendril of hope that maybe he recognised it. "I gotta say, Wes, I'm a little surprised to see you here. The last thing I expected when I woke up this morning was to be having a meeting with you in the White House."
"I understand you're confusion, and your concern," Wesley said, his eyes tracking her every move. He didn't seem at all concerned by her supposed anger.
She set the alarm on her watch for six minutes. "Well that's good, then you won't mind telling me what the fuck
you're doing here, Wesley," she yelled, "and why the freaking President and Joint Chiefs seem to know a hell of a lot about what happened in L.A.!"
Wesley opened his mouth to reply, but stopped when Willow held up the amulet and uttered the incantation. Once she felt the tingle of magic against her skin, she relaxed slightly.
"Is that an..." Wesley began.
"An amulet that allows me to cast an glamour spell that will fool to President and Joint Chiefs into thinking that we're in here arguing? Yes."
"Since I wasn't sure exactly how you're here and why, I didn't know if you were meant to be a friend or foe, so I figured me being pissed at you is something that wouldn't make them too suspicious," she told him. "It's good to see you alive, Wesley."
"You too, Lieutenant."
"You can call me Willow." He had earned that right.
"How long does the glamour last?"
"You have six minutes to explain to me what the HELL is going on. So talk and talk fast."~*~*~
Jack hung up the phone and stared at it for a full minute, silently wondering how Daniel had managed to find his perfect match. Willow was as much, if not more, trouble than Daniel himself. He was going to kill
her, slowly if the mess she was in caused him any paperwork.
"Sir, is everything all right?" Lorne asked.
"I want your team and all the teams Rosenberg and Kawlasky requested to help them in the Gate Room in ten minutes, " he ordered the major. "SG-11 will be heading to the White House. Everyone else will be going to L.A."
Jack didn't know what scared him more, the fact that Lieutenant Rosenberg was currently at the White House with President Hayes and the Joint Chiefs or the fact that everything Kawalsky and Rosenberg requested was approved by the President.
Jack almost didn't want to know what kind of trouble she was in. ~*~*~
"I'm no longer working for the Watcher's Council," Wesley began without preamble. "After the Sunnydale Massacre I was fired. I took work at a University where I taught the occult and demonology. About seven years ago I was approached by the British Military who asked me to work as a consultant and liaison. Apparently one of my contacts at the Council gave them my name."
"Why did the military want to work with you?" Willow asked, already suspecting the answer.
"The Sunnydale Massacre had been a little too difficult for the authorities, including the government, to ignore and the British Military needed me to assist the American Government with all matters concerning the supernatural."
Willow took a moment to let the words to sink in. "The American Government stopped turning a blind eye ?"
"I don't think the American Government ever actually turned a blind eye," Wesley told her. "I believe they simply started paying attention again. The American Government had a project involving supernatural beings during the Second World War, but the group was disbanded for due to some rather unethical experiments that resulted in the death of dozens of soldiers."
This... This was bad. "Keep going." She'd worry about that later, time was too important.
"The British Government and Military have been aware of both supernatural beings, and the Watcher's Council, for some time. In fact both have alliances with the Watcher's Council concerning certain matters, it's why the Council has so much power, and all three groups were concerned when the US Government ceased to ignore the existence of supernatural beings. Out of fear they would exploit the supernatural world once again, the British Government decided to confront the President and issue him with an ultimatum."
Her eyebrows shot up at that. "Ultimatum?"
"A few months before the Council and the British Government realised the Americans were once again taking an interest in supernatural being, the American Government disclosed the existence of the Stargate Program."
Willow couldn't stop a grin from forming on her face. "They used it as a bargaining chip, didn't they?"
Wesley nodded. "They threatened to expose the program unless the government agreed to allow the British Military to be involved in all programs associated with hunting or tracking supernatural beings. Obviously this caused a great deal of problems, but ultimately they were forced to decide which was more important, aliens with technology they couldn't even imagine or supernatural beings."
"That must have gone down well."
He smiled slightly. "A treaty was formed whereby the British Government helped fund and support the Stargate Program in exchange for the American Government agreeing to not capture, experiment or study any supernatural beings. They were allowed to hunt, but not to capture and study."
She let out a low whistle. "I'm surprised they agreed to it."
"They didn't, well not at first. It was only when we described what you and your friends did in Sunnydale did they start to listen. We didn't use names of course, at least not then, but when they realised that it wasn't just about magic and power, they started to see our way of thinking. Of course, we also threatened to withdraw all known teams with the ability to fight demons from American soil. "
She frowned. "The British Military have teams fighting demons?"
Wesley glanced at the amulet. "How long?"
"No, the team they were referring to was Buffy and the Scooby Gang, after that they were referring to Faith and...."
"The Fang Gang," she finished for him.
He nodded. "With the help of the Council, they were able to convince the American Government that you were all working for the British Government even though you were all American. We also explained to them just how important the Slayer was, and the possible consequence of her withdrawal from American soil could be."
Why didn't Willow like the sound of that? "So they agreed to it?"
"A treaty was created. Like I mentioned before, the British Military agreed to keep the Stargate Program a secret and well funded. They also agreed to help train a classified military organisation called Hunters. That is where I came in. I was recruited to be a civilian consultant. I was authorised to share information, resources, as well as keep an eye on all aspects of the Hunters. The American Government was concerned with the safety of its citizens and as long as we helped them keep people safe, they agreed to the treaty and our terms."
"In exchange, the US Government agreed to only hunt demons and to offer diplomatic immunity and protection to certain civilian Hunters working for the Council or the British Government."
Willow froze as Colonel Hollows words came back to her. "Certain Hunters?"
"Slayers and their teams."
Oh. Shit. Now she understood. "You're saying I have diplomatic immunity?"
"When it comes to role and skills as a Hunter, yes," Wesley confirmed. "Your chosen occupation has caused some issues with the treaty, but you're protected from potential abuse from any military or governmental figures."
Oh, she really
didn't like this. "I don't understand, what do you mean?"
"While they are under a slight misapprehension about your specific talents, the United States Government is fully aware that you are not a normal human. Even with your teams covering for you, the President is well aware of your extrasensory powers."
After everything, this wasn't news to Willow. "Do they know I'm a witch, Wesley?"
He shook his head. "No, they simply think that you're a psychic. An extremely powerful psychic."
That was something at least. "So this treaty, how far does it go?"
"You're completely protected when it comes to supernatural beings. They cannot force you to use your powers in any way shape or form. They are not to threaten your friends or your family. If you choose to assist them with your abilities, as you are with the Stargate Command, then you can do that freely, but they cannot use you as a weapon. Now that you are aware of what they know, they will more than likely ask for your assistance when dealing with the supernatural, but they cannot force you to Hunt or to become a Hunter within the military."
"A Hunter... you mean they want me to join their supernatural task force?" She didn't quite know how else to word it.
Wesley nodded. "Given your experience with Stargate Command and the fact that you started working with the Slayer at such a young age, they consider you a considerably valued asset. Did you not think it was odd that, at a rank of lieutenant, you were asked to lead SG-1 on a rescue mission where other teams had failed before you? Reputation or not, it is unheard of."
It all made frightening sense when he pointed it out like that.
"As far as the President and the Joint Chiefs are concerned, you're the military's foremost expert on the supernatural. An expert they will want to keep on their side, especially considering our alien enemies. Not to mention your close alliance with the Slayer."
Willow grimaced. It was better than she feared, but worse as well. "And what of the Watcher's Council, what do they think about all of this?"
"To be honest, I'm not completely sure," Wesley admitted. "My contacts in the Council dried up long ago."
Willow didn't like that reply, but before she could press Wesley for more details the alarm went off on her watch. She swore. "Time's up."