Spoilers: Up to season 5 prequel of 24, end of season 7 Buffy
Disclaimer: Nothing in ‘24’ is mine, especially not CTU or Chloe O’Brian. It all belongs to Twentieth Century Fox, Real Time Productions and its creators Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran. Everything Buffy is copyright Joss Whedon/Twentieth Century Fox/Mutant Enemy. Only the plot is mine. This is a non-profit fan story not intended to infringe the rights of anyone involved in producing either show. Besides I have no money, sueing me would be a waste of time. :)
Author's note: I realize I should be working on Rising...It is almost done, there's just this one chapter that isn't cooperating. And I recently got re-addicted to 24, so here's the result.
Xander Harris pulled into the parking lot of the Counter-Terrorist Unit in LA and eyed the building with distaste. *I feel like I should be breaking in through a secret entrance or something*, he thought. If the Initiative had been an officially sanctioned operation, its headquarters would probably have looked a lot like this. It gave him the creeps. He still had nightmares sometimes about the battle they’d had to fight just to retreat once they’d dealt with Adam. He sighed, shook his head, grabbed his bag and headed in.
They had better security at CTU, anyway; not that that was hard. The only place with worse security than the Initiative had been the Sunnydale Army Base. He had to put his bag on the x-ray machine while they scrutinized his driver’s license and compared it to something on a clipboard.
“You’re not on the list, sir,” one of the guards informed him.
“I’m the SC Liaison,” he explained. “I have an appointment with Director Finn.”
“Do you have identification from that organization, sir?”
Luckily, he did. There had been a number of problems involved with keeping an organization as big as the new Slayers Council off the radar. They couldn’t stay as completely away from official notice as easily as when there’d only been five or six of them. So Willow had created SC Securities to give them an official status when they did need to interact with anyone in the government.
He dug out his SC identification and handed that over. Not that he expected the guard to be able tell whether it was real or not, so the point was a little beyond him; but if it made the guy feel like he was doing his job then what the hell. While he was waiting, Xander noted that the guards all wore red shirts and idly wondered if any of them watched Star Trek. Probably not.
Eventually the man handed both of the IDs back, made a note on his clipboard, and waved Xander through the metal detector. Then the other guard escorted Xander through the cement and glass hallways, to what was basically one big room, divided into work areas with glass partitions. And there on the main floor was Riley, breathing down the neck of some computer tech chick. He was asking her some question in technospeak but looked up at Xander’s arrival.
“Riley,” Xander greeted. “You know if your wife catches you looking down other women’s shirts, you’re a dead man.”
“Xander!” Riley took a step back. “I wasn’t…” he trailed off, unable to think of a way to finish the sentence that wouldn’t make it sound worse.
“I was kidding, Riley. You always were way too gullible about stuff like that. What’s that slogan? Join the Army, lose your sense of humour?”
“That’s not exactly it,” Riley said dryly. He walked over to Xander and they shook hands. “Besides, you’re the one with the army these days.”
“Very funny. I wouldn’t exactly call it an army. Armies have…what’s the word I’m looking for?”
“Guns?” Riley suggested.
“Discipline,” Xander corrected.
Riley dismissed the security guard and indicated that Xander should walk with him. “We can talk in my office.”
“How’ve you been? You look like civilian life suits you.”
“It does,” Riley said with a smile. “I’m still doing my part, just without the constant danger. You, though...”
Xander touched the eyepatch he always wore over his left eye socket now. “Crazy guy thought I saw too much. He didn’t like that, so he took it on himself to fix it. Some people, huh?”
“Yeah.” The other man’s agreement lacked conviction, though.
“It was two years ago, Riley. And, while I miss having depth perception, there are worse things to lose than one stupid eye.”
The former commando got it immediately. “Who?”
“Anya. A few others you didn’t know. You really have been out of the loop, haven’t you?”
“We stopped getting reports right before…everything went down. Then they completely lost track of you guys. By the time you turned up on the radar again, I’d taken this job. Graham told me that you guys were still alive but that’s it. The only ones they keep track of are you, Buffy, Willow and Mr. Giles, anyway. As long as you’re still alive; well, I’m a civilian now, nobody tells me anything.”
“Being a civilian myself, I can fill you in. You heard about Tara, right?”
“Yeah,” Riley said. “And then you saved the world.”
“I got Willow back. Everything else was just a bonus. Wills has hooked up with one of the newbies, Kennedy, and is all the way good now. Not living on a hellmouth has been especially good for keeping it that way. She and Buffy are running the basic training school in Rome. Dawn’s at Princeton; on a scholarship, no less. She’s doing a degree in classical something-or-other and ancient languages. Giles is in London, spying for us on Lord Whatsisname who thinks he’s in charge now. Faith’s in Cleveland keeping an eye on the hellmouth there and running the advanced training school…But you didn’t ever really meet Faith, did you?”
Riley actually looked embarrassed at the reminder. “Not as such.”
“Right, well, she’s all the way good now, too.”
As they got to his office, another glass cubicle, this one at the top of some concrete stairs, Riley updated Xander on his own life. His wife, Samantha, worked at CTU as well but was currently on maternity leave. She was close to term with their second kid; the first child having been the reason for them giving up field work.
“You realize I’ll be in danger of being maimed further if I don’t bring back pictures? At least of mini-you.”
“She’s more like a mini-Sam,” Riley said with a proud-papa smile. “I’m sure I have some around that you can take with you. So, now that we’re out from under the watchful eyes, what’s up?”
Xander looked around at the walls of Riley’s office, 3 out of 4 of which were clear glass with some barcode-like etching on them. “Seems to me the eyes can still see in,” he said dryly. “As long as they can’t hear, though…”
“Yeah, takes some getting used to. I don’t know who designed this place, but half the time I feel like I’m working in a fishbowl. They can’t hear in, though.”
“What’s up is we got the name of a new slayer in Chicago a few months back.”
“And it turns out she’s not that new. She was Called two years ago with everybody else. She’s also not from Chicago. Turns out she works for you. The backlash from closing the Sunnydale Hellmouth, combined with the waves that whole Wolfram & Hart mess created, combined with LA’s naturally strong mystical whatever meant Wills didn’t detect her until she took a little trip to Chicago a few months ago.”
“And it took you guys this long to trace her?”
“Whatever she was doing in Chicago, she didn’t want to be followed. We wouldn’t have been able to trace her at all except that she drove. Managed to get a license plate, don’t ask how, and then a name.”
“What’s the name?”
“You’re kidding.” Riley looked appalled at the thought.
“Well that doesn’t sound good.”
“She’s our senior computer analyst. She's also the best one we have. She hates field work. Even if she believes us…” He shook his head. “And yet I’m somehow not surprised.”
“This is a new era of world saveage, Riley. That was part of the point of calling all of them. The other part being that we desperately needed the help, but still.”
“I don’t get it.”
“They get a choice now. Most of them choose to fight, which is good for us, but some of them just can’t deal. So we train them, just in case; we hide them as best we can; and then we let them go.”
“And that, works?”
“Yep. I’ll grant you LA is still a hotspot but we’ve got plenty of people here, Riley. If she doesn’t accept the call, that’s her choice. It’s got to be. I’ve got concealment charms and the mystical whatsit that’s protected her this long adds an extra layer to that. She’ll still need training, just in case, but to be honest you could probably do it.”
“No, I couldn’t,” Riley said. “I could barely handle training with Buffy. You’re used to sparring with women who could rip your arm off. If she won’t go to those schools of yours, I’ll pay for you to stay here and do it. Anyone but me.”
Xander chuckled as Riley checked his watch, hit some buttons on his phone and asked the woman who answered to come up to his office when she had a couple of minutes.
“I am wondering, why’s it have to be her choice?” he asked. “Not that I don’t approve, but the way you said it makes me curious.”
“You mean besides the obvious reason that it’s wrong for them not to have the choice? If they aren’t completely committed to the fight, bad things happen.”
“Wasn’t that the Council’s excuse for cutting the girls off like they did?”
“Yeah. Except those idiots didn’t take into account that saving the world becomes a lot more important when you’re living in it, instead of at its edges. And that people fight a lot harder when they’ve got something personal to fight for.”
There was a knock on the glass door and Xander turned in his seat as it opened. She was blond, and short; which described about a third of the newly called slayers in the States. He stood and turned to face her properly as she entered the room.
She eyed Xander before turning her attention to Riley. “I hope this won’t take long. I was kind of in the middle of something.”
Xander liked her already. Attitude was something they always tried to encourage in the girls. It made them frustrating to deal with sometimes, but it was a hell of a lot better for them than blind obedience. Looking her over, Xander realized she was pretty with the potential to be gorgeous but hid it with a sour expression and an odd posture.
This had to be her. She gave him the impression of being pulled in on herself; arms held close to her side, shoulders tense, everything slightly stiff. Almost as if she didn’t trust her own body movements unless they were under the tight control of her conscious mind. She probably didn’t, if her reactions had gone from normal to slayer in the middle of some random afternoon two years ago.
“I don’t know how long it’s going to take,” Riley was saying. “But it’s important. I think you should sit down.”
“Fine.” She sat, then her eyes slid over to Xander. “Why is he here?”
“His name is Xander Harris,” Riley said. “Xander, this is Chloe O’Brian.”
“I kinda figured, thanks, Ri. What he’s not telling you,” he said to Chloe. “Is that I’m here to talk to you. About something that happened two years ago.”
She blinked. “Two years? And it can’t wait any longer?”
“It could,” Xander admitted, with a half-smile. “But I figure you’re more likely to listen to me here than you would if I, say, showed up at your apartment. Something happened to you, two years ago in May. You got stronger, faster, started to have weird dreams, suddenly knew how to use weapons you’d never even picked up before. And you started to feel this…compulsion to go out at night, just to walk. And you had all this extra energy all of sudden so you probably, joined a gym or started taking martial arts or even just running.”
She looked freaked out. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Yes. You do. No offence but, you’re a terrible liar.”
“So what if I started going to the gym? What’s it to you?”
“I know what happened that day. I know why you have those dreams, why you have all that extra energy, why you go for a walk every night, no matter how long the day has been. You need to know, too.”
She stood and turned to Riley. “I don’t know if he’s your friend or what, Mr. Finn, and I probably shouldn’t say this, but he’s crazy. And I’ve got more important things to do than sit here and listen to this.”
Xander was grinning. “I like her.”
“Yeah, well, that’s because she’s right,” Finn said. “You are crazy. Stop, Chloe,” he ordered as she started to open the door. She stopped but didn’t turn.
She did, but she didn’t look happy about it.
“He’s not crazy.”
“You just said he was,” she pointed out.
“Okay, he is,” Riley sighed. “Just not in the sense you mean. Sit back down, Chloe, we’ve got a highly classified secret to tell you about.”
“Vampires…and demons.” She sounded like she couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Not incredibly surprising.
“Are real,” Riley echoed Xander’s last statement.
She kept opening her mouth as though she as about to say something and then closing it again before it got out. As though she couldn't think of a strong enough word for how crazy they were.
“You know I was in the Army before I came to CTU?” he asked her.
“I was assigned to something called Omega Team right out of basic. You won’t have heard of it, but we hunted Hostile Sub-Terrestrials or HSTs. At least, that’s what we called them. We had no idea what they really were until we ran across some of Xander’s friends.”
“Vampires aren’t real,” she insisted. “Neither are demons.”
“Everything is real,” Xander corrected. “Every fairy tale, every legend. Except leprechauns.”
“Even Santa Claus?” she asked scornfully.
“Well, not anymore. He’s been dead for centuries.”
“Really?” Riley asked. “Santa?”
“Yeah. Only, not so much with the giving presents. More with the ripping out of entrails. And the red coat? Not its original colour.”
“I could have lived the rest of my life without ever having to hear that. You’re sure he’s dead?”
“Anya said so. The Watcher Diaries confirmed it. So 99% sure.”
Chloe was looking back and forth between them as though trying to decide which of them was crazier. “You two, are insane.”
“This being LA, it’s easy enough to prove,” Xander said. “Not the Santa thing, but the rest of it. As soon as the sun goes down, anyway.” He got up and walked over towards the filing cabinet that backed onto the one cement wall in Riley’s office. He was holding something in his hand.
“I’m not going anywhere with you. Either of you. Before or after sunset. I should call security right now.”
Xander threw the object he was holding as hard as he could at her head. She caught it in one hand without even looking a split second before impact. Then, in an instinctive move, whipped it straight back at him as hard as she could. Which was significantly harder than most people. Having been on the receiving end of Slayer reflexes too many times to count, and having done this particular test more than once, Xander had already hit the floor.
There was a loud bang and a thud. A round hole, about the size of a tennis ball, was now visible on one of the filing cabinet drawers. Xander stood and eyed the height of the hole, comparing it to where he’d been standing. He turned to Chloe, who was staring wide-eyed at the filing cabinet.
“Not bad,” he complimented her. “Right between the eyes. Heart would have been better. Not everything has eyes. Most things do, though.”
“What—what just happened?” she asked.
“That’s what I’d like to know,” Riley said. He’d hit the floor when he’d heard the bang and was now examining the hole in his previously pristine filing cabinet.
“That was the Slayer-test.”
“The what-test?” Chloe asked.
“I thought that was catching a knife.”
“It used to be a knife,” he answered Riley. “But those are kind of difficult to get through security checks and most of the girls never really forgave the person that did it to them. It was just a rock. This is less traumatic. Usually. Sorry about the filing cabinet. I’ll replace it if you want.”
The phone rang. Riley hit speaker.
“Is everything okay up there, sir?” a male voice asked.
“It’s fine, Marcus. There was an accident with the filing cabinet. It’s a little damaged but no one’s injured.”
“The filing cabinet?”
“Yes. Thanks for the concern. Is that all?”
“Yes, sir.” He hung up.
“What, the hell, was that?” Chloe asked, enunciating every syllable slowly to make sure she was being clear.
“It was a rock,” Xander explained. “I threw it at your head without warning and you caught it then you whipped it right back at me as hard as you could and it went right through Riley’s filing cabinet and is probably partially embedded in the cement behind it. It’s the best I can do in the way of proof until after sunset.”
“I am not a demon.”
“No,” Xander assured her. “You’re really not. You’re what’s called a Slayer. You’re what the demons have nightmares about. Those women whose deaths you’ve been dreaming about, they were all slayers, too.”
“How did you…? Why me? What is a Slayer?”
“I’ve been hanging out with slayers for close to ten years, that’s how come I know about the dreams. And what a slayer actually is, well, I guess you could say…the natural balance to the bad things. A young woman given the power to fight the darkness. If you want the full old school explanation you’ll have to ask somebody else. Used to be there was only one at a time plus a pool of Potentials. When she died, the next was chosen from among the Potentials. Two years ago, the system changed, and every girl with the potential to be a slayer became one. That’s what happened to you. And to answer your other question, nobody’s exactly sure what makes a girl a potential slayer, so no idea.”
“You’re saying, I’m like those girls in my dreams? That I have to go out and get myself like they did? I don’t do field work. I work with computers.” She turned to leave.
“You don’t have to do anything,” Xander said. “But there’s more you should hear before you walk away.”
She looked skeptical but turned around anyway; her expression clearly telling them to get on with it.
“Everything we’ve just told you, you can choose to ignore it. Be like the rest of the world and pretend the supernatural doesn’t exist. That was part of the point of calling everyone at once. Though I should mention that we’re doing everything in our power to increase the life expectancy of slayers.”
“I choose to pretend this never happened. Can I leave yet?”
“In a minute,” Riley promised her. “Stop trying to talk her into working for you and tell her the rest.”
“Like I said,” Xander continued. “You can ignore it if you want, and it’s probably safer for you, as you’ve already figured out. But active or not, you will always be a slayer. And that makes you a potential target.”
“That’s cute. I have a choice but I don’t have a choice,” she said sarcastically.
“That’s not what I was trying to say,” Xander corrected her. “It’s just a fact. We can help make you less of a target, help you hide what you are from anyone who’s looking. Working for CTU is pretty good protection, so is living in LA. There are other things we can do to make you even more invisible. And training we can give you to make you less vulnerable if something does go wrong.”
“What kind of training?” she asked suspiciously.
“The most common bad guys and how to spot them. Also, hand-to-hand training and weapons, so that you can win if you have to fight them. Or, at the very least, keep yourself alive until help can get there. The really basic training is a week’s crash course. One week. And then you never hear from us again. Unless you contact us, or we think you’re in danger or something.”
“Can’t you just, take it back?”
“It doesn’t work that way. We didn’t set up the original system. Changing it the way we did was a Hail Mary pass to stop the world from being sucked into hell.”
She studied the hole in Riley’s filing cabinet, then she studied Xander, then Riley himself. “I have to think about this.”
“Take your time,” Xander said. “Riley knows how to get in touch with me. If you want more proof than a rock thrown at your head, there’s plenty around. LA is one of the centers of weird.”
“I know this is a lot to handle,” Riley told her. “If you think you need time to work through--”
“I don’t. I can still do my job,” she snapped. She looked from one to the other once more and walked out.
There was a moment of silence after the door closed.
“That went well, I thought,” Xander commented.
“She has a few rough edges,” Riley admitted. “But, like I said before, she’s the best analyst we have.”
“I was being serious. I’ve had worse reactions. I want her to get into it, though. She’d make a fantastic slayer.”
“You think so?”
“Are you kidding? All that pent-up hostility at the world? She’d be great. I pity her support team if they can’t keep up with her, but she’d have the demons of LA trembling in fear in no time.”
“I thought you liked her.”
“I do. She reminds of Cordy. But I'm not everybody. Just picture her trained, attacking a nest. They’d never know what hit them. It’d be beautiful.”
A slow smile made its way across Riley’s face.