Disclaimers, etc., in Chapter 1
President Bartlet continued questioning the Scoobies long into the night, the coffee sat cold on the table, forgotten. They told him, after assurances that nothing they said would leave the room, about everything from Buffy’s deaths to ADAM to why, currently, it might be helpful if the federal government put off its investigation into ethics violations at the Los Angeles branch of Wolfram & Hart.
They spoke of the death of friends and relatives, fights with a goddess, and their hope for a full pardon for Faith. And after three hours, they finally got to why they thought they were actually there.
“So,” Bartlet said, “how do you go about identifying a newly called Slayer?”
Buffy and Xander turned to Willow. “We work with a coven of witches,” she said, “based out of England. Devon. Using certain techniques and spells, they’re able to discern a name, and a general location. Giles then plots the location on a map, and off we go.”
“So it’s just the three of you doing this?” he asked.
“In this country, for the moment, yes,” Xander said. “A colleague of ours was recently injured, but he was doing this as well. We’re working on getting people in other areas, but for now it’s pretty much here, and Europe.”
“Because that’s where the Council was,” Bartlet surmised.
“Yes, sir,” Xander said.
“Are there any common characteristics between these girls?” he asked. “Genetics, or…”
“We don’t know,” Buffy said. “There’s never been more than one Slayer at a time before, so nobody’s really looked into it. We suspect that all these girls, at some point way, way back on the timeline, come from a common ancestor. The First Slayer. But that’s just a guess.”
“As for characteristics,” Willow said, “all of the girls we’ve talked to so far have been within a certain age range. They’ve all had their first period, and we think that’s probably a biological fail-safe.”
“Wouldn’t do to have a young girl kick her way out of her mother’s stomach,” Bartlet said, nodding.
“No, sir,” Buffy said. “We’ve also met a few Slayers approaching the common age of menopause, but these seem to be extremes. For the most part, the girls are between about 15 and 30.”
“So, you think that being the Slayer has something to do with a woman’s menstrual cycle?” Bartlet asked, looking at the trio over the rim of his glasses.
“Well,” Willow said, “we think it’s either going to be something to do with a hormone that’s released during that time, or it’s just magic with some biological activators. We’re not really sure.”
“Interesting,” the president said, tapping a pen on the paper he had been using to take notes. Bartlet sat back in his chair, and looked off into the distance as the pen slowly made its way to his mouth.
“Do you realize,” Xander whispered to Willow, “that the pen he’s chewing on probably cost more than my first car?”
“Okay,” Bartlet said after a few more moments. “So what’s next?”
“Well,” Buffy said, leaning forward, “I suppose we should talk to your daughter, and probably your wife. Educate them about what’s going on, what the options are, and how –”
“I’m sorry,” Bartlet interrupted. “Why would we be talking to them?”
“Um,” Xander said. “Because one of your daughters is showing signs of being a Slayer?”
Bartlet sat back in his chair. “You think one of my daughters is showing signs of being a Slayer, and it took me this long to contact you?”
The Scoobies looked at each other.
“We hadn’t considered that,” Xander said.
“So, what are we talking about?” Buffy asked.
“Well, as far as I can tell, we’ve pretty much covered all the basic. We –” Bartlet was interrupted by a knock at the door. “Yeah?”
Charlie opened the door. “He’s here, sir,” the young man said.
“Great,” replied Bartlet. “Tell him it’ll just be a few minutes.”
Charlie nodded and retreated back into the administrative office.
“Where was I?”
“We’ve covered the basics, sir?” Xander supplied.
“Right, of course. So, now that we’ve talked about that… what’s next?”
“We’re not quite sure what you mean,” Willow said.
“Well, you’re doing the school thing, which I approve of, by the way, and you’re finding these girls, which is nice. But what’s next? You’re going to have an army of super-powered women at your disposal. What do you do with them?”
They were taken aback a little at the question.
“We do the same thing we’ve been doing,” Buffy said. “We combat evil where we find it.”
“All evil?” Bartlet asked.
“All mystical evil,” Buffy said. “The more common variety we tend to leave to the authorities.”
“Let me pose a hypothetical,” Bartlet said. “Suppose that you were walking past a bank, and a masked man ran out of it as the alarm went off, and he was holding some money bags. Is that the kind of thing you’d leave to the authorities?”
“No, sir,” Buffy said. “I’d knock the man on his ass and hold him until the cops showed up.”
“Basically,” Xander said, “we’re going to follow a code. Your average Joe doesn’t get involved in murder investigations just because he feels bad about it, and neither do we, unless there’s some mystical aspect to it. By the same token, though, that same Joe who doesn’t go try to solve a murder might very well, to use your example, sir, do his best to trip up a bank robber.”
“Our skills, our knowledge, are all focused towards one aspect of fighting evil,” Willow added. “We do what we know, and what we’re trained to do. We’re not so stupid to think we can do everything the police can, nor so focused on the magical that we won’t stop to help someone in more normal types of trouble. We do our best.”
Bartlet nodded. “And you all feel this way?”
“We do, sir,” Xander said.
“Good. Good. I’d like to, if I may, offer some assistance.”
“Assistance, Mr. President?” Buffy asked.
“Well, money,” Bartlet said.
The trio glanced at each other.
“We, um… we don’t mean to sound rude, but we’ve had bad experiences with officially funded demon hunters before. How do we –“
“I apologize,” President Bartlet said. “I was unclear. I meant that I, Jed Bartlet, would like to make a donation. The United States of America can officially have no contact with or knowledge of your group. You understand.”
“Yes, sir,” said Willow.
“Great. I’ll have a check cut for you guys. I’d also like to assign a governmental liaison,” he said.
The three friends fairly bristled.
“I thought that might be your reaction,” Bartlet said. “Don’t worry, you get the money anyway. I just thought you might like someone to contact if you ever needed something. Say, a head turned while you abscond with a rocket launcher?”
Xander lowered his head and coughed.
“Yeah,” Bartlet said. “Well, why don’t you meet the guy before you just blow him off. Charlie?”
The door opened and Charlie’s head appeared.
“Send him in.”
“One question, sir,” Xander said.
“What would that be, son?”
“Well, Alexander Dumas. We get the Three Musketeers reference. We’re just wondering… was there anything else behind it?”
Bartlet smiled and his eyes lit up at the prospect of educating three young Americans. “Are you familiar with the Three Musketeers?” he asked. “Three valiant heroes who stood up for what they believed in, but above all the believed in and cared for each other. All for one, one for all. It was a group of noble warriors, but the similarities go deeper yet. One, Athos, was the leader, and the surest fighter,” Bartlet said, indicating Buffy with a wave of his hand. “Another, Aramis, was a fighter of deep spirtuality.” Bartlet indicated Willow. “And Porthos. Ah, dear, sweet Porthos. Much like yourself, Mr. Harris. Can anyone tell me why?”
The Scoobies shook their heads, entranced by the president’s words, when from behind them, a voice spoke the answer. “Because he was always surrounded by beautiful women. Sir.”
The Scoobies turned at the voice.
“Riley!” they said, rising almost as one.
“Mr. President,” Riley said, saluting his commander-in-chief. “Hi, guys.”
“Colonel Finn, so glad you could join us,” Bartlet said, indicating a chair for Riley to sit in.
“Colonel?” Xander asked, as the three of them sat back down. “When did that happen?”
“Well, it’s really only Lieutenant Colonel,” Riley said as he limped over to the chair Bartlet had indicated. “But it was about a month ago.”
“What happened to you?” Buffy asked.
“I’m not at liberty to say,” Riley responded.
“His group was responding to a threat out near Belize,” President Bartlet said. “When their commanding officer was killed, your boy here took charge of the unit, devised a scheme to get the entire group out, executed the plan and didn’t lose one soldier. Something took a bite out of him in the process. He’d have gotten the Purple Heart for that, only we can’t tell anybody what happened. So instead he got promoted to a higher pay scale, and more responsibility.”
“Are we… allowed to know that?” Willow asked.
“No, and if you let anyone know I told you, I could go to jail, so do me a favor and keep your mouths shut.”
“Yes, sir,” the group said.
“So here’s how I’d like this to work,” Bartlet said. “Colonel Finn’s group is buried under so much black budget work, the United States doesn’t know about him. You guys are also technically a non-entity, that we have no contact with. My thought was that, what with Riley being virtually untraceable, and as of now, only answerable to about three people, one of whom doesn’t even really know he exists, he might be an ideal contact.”
“That sounds… promising,” Buffy said, smiling at her former beau. “We’d have to work out some details…”
“Of course,” said the president. “Be sure not to keep me informed of what they are. Also, I’m prepared to contact the British government, through various back-channels, and have them quietly release the funds of the Council of Watchers.”
“You… can do that?” Willow asked. She turned and looked up at Riley. “He can do that?”
Riley nodded, an amused smile on his face.
“Oh man, guys, think about it!” Willow said. “We could get a new car to drive around in! One of those hybrid things!”
“Or,” President Bartlet suggested, “you could simply fly to your destinations.”
Willow crinkled her nose. “Planes are no fun,” she said.
“Yeah,” Xander added, “and the other passengers get weirded out when we start talking about dismemberment and viscera.”
“Which probably happens more often than you might think, sir,” Riley put in.
Bartlet shook his head. “All right, you people have taken up enough of my time. I have a country to run. Colonel Finn, can you see them out?”
“Yes, sir,” Riley said, saluting the president.
As the Scoobies stood to file out, Bartlet walked behind his desk and read a note on a file that was laid out on his desk. “Oh, Mr. Harris,” he said, causing the entire group to pause.
“I wonder if you might be interested in a program we’ve got going. It’s secret in just about every way possible, but it turns out our scientists have been able to repair nerve damage in some eyes, and LuthorCorp has just produced a revolutionary new replacement eye that can actually send visual signals across nerves to the brain.”
Xander cocked his head to one side. “Does it look at all real, sir?”
“Not even a little bit,” Bartlet said, smiling.
“Then thank you, but no thanks, sir,” Xander said. “Besides, the eye-patch plays well with the ladies.”
“I thought that might be the case,” he said, before waving the group out. “Charlie!” he yelled.
The young man stepped into the office.
“What’s next?” Bartlet asked.
“You’ve got a security briefing in ten minutes with Dr. MacNally. Other than that, Toby and CJ would like a couple of minutes.”
“All right, send them in,” he said. “Oh, and stop them and get the name of their school, and have Abby write out a check, would you?”
“Yes, sir,” Charlie said. He waved CJ and Toby into the Oval Office.
“Who was that?” CJ asked.
“Nobody,” Charlie said as he passed her.
“The same nobody Josh saw in here three hours ago?” Toby asked, looking from Charlie, to the president, and back again.
“Drop it, Toby,” Bartlet said.
“Sir, you were out of contact with your staff for almost three full hours, during which time you were --”
“Toby,” President Bartlet said, a note of warning in his voice.
“Yes, sir,” Toby said.
“So, what can I do for you guys?”
“Mr. President, Reuters has a source that says a Senator from Florida is going to be crossing the aisle.”
“Florida?” Bartlet asked. “Aren’t they both ours?”
“Yes, sir,” CJ said.
“Dammit!” yelled Bartlet.
Charlie closed the door.
* * * * *
“How’s Sam?” Xander asked, once they had given Charlie the school’s name and Riley had led them outside.
“She’s good,” Riley said. He was leading them towards his car. “We’re technically on leave right now so, you know.”
“Killing things in the good ol’ U.S. of A?” Buffy asked.
“That’s about it, yeah,” Riley said. He turned to Willow, and took her hand. “I was sorry to hear about Tara,” he said. Willow smiled at him and thanked him.
“And about Anya,” he said, turning to Xander.
“Thanks,” Xander said with a nod of his head.
Riley took a deep breath and turned to Buffy. “I –”
“You don’t have to say it,” Buffy said, smiling at him. “Because I know you’re not. But thank you, anyway.”
“So is your leg going to get better?” Xander asked.
“Yeah. I’ve got a little reconstructive surgery to get done, and then a serious physical therapy regimen. Six months, and they’re saying I should be as good as new.”
“That’s great,” Willow said.
“So, how do we work this thing?” Buffy asked.
“Well,” Riley said. “For a group our size, we have a fairly hefty budget. So I was thinking, I’ll give you my phone number, and when you need something, you call me.”
“And then?” Xander asked.
“Uh,” Riley said. “And then I get you what you need?”
They paused. “That’s it?”
“Yeah,” he said.
“So, if we need a block of C-4…” Buffy said.
“Or if we need a couple of illegal ingredients for a spell…” Willow said.
“Call me,” said Riley.
“And if we need a fire truck filled with holy water…” Xander asked.
Riley laughed. “I’ll get you the truck, you get the priest, and I’ll join you for the fight, because if you need a fire truck filled with holy water, I want to see it.”
“So how do we get in contact?” Buffy asked.
“I’m getting a satellite phone system, soon. I’ll contact Giles with the details. Just make sure he knows why I’m calling.”
Willow nodded. “That sounds easy.”
“It’s supposed to be easy,” Riley said with a smile. “We’re on the same team, you know.”
“So where are you headed next?” Riley asked.
“We’re not really sure,” said Buffy. “Giles hasn’t contacted us with the name or place of another girl yet, so I thought we might stick around here for a little bit. See a few sights. Guys?”
“Sounds good to me,” Xander said, as Willow nodded her consent.
“All right,” Riley said. “Well, I have to travel back to places I can’t tell you about, but you guys should enjoy yourselves while you’re in town. Take a vacation. You’ve earned it.”
“It was good seeing you again,” Buffy said, smiling at him.
“You guys, too,” Riley responded. “Do you guys need a ride somewhere?”
Xander pointed to the limo. “We’ve got a ride, thanks.”
Riley nodded, and opened his car door. “Well. You guys be sure to keep in touch.”
“Riley, you too,” Xander said, extending his hand, which Riley shook.
“Okay, well,” Riley said. “So long.”
Willow and Buffy stepped up to give Riley a hug, before he got in his car and drove away from the White House.
“So, what do you guys want to do now?” Willow asked, looping her arm through Xander’s as the three of them walked back towards their limousine.
“Yeah,” asked Buffy, following Willow’s lead and hooking her arm with Xander’s free one. “What should we do?”
Xander looked down at the two women and smiled. “Anything we want.”