Destiny Up For Grabs
Summary: BtVS/Stargate xover. Sunnydale's gone, so where do we go from here? Buffy and Co. thought they'd have time to decide, now that the Hellmouth was permanently closed, but the PTB have other plans for them. A Slayer's destiny never takes a vacation, but it can change, especially when their original line of destiny was broken by death. Buffy's destiny is up for grabs now, and even the PTB doesn't know who will get to control it.
A/N: OK,I really didn't mean for it to take this long to update, but life has really, really sucked the big one lately, and I don't really see that changing anytime soon. I've got an excessively full load this semester (16 units), and unless there is anyone out there that can hold my hand through an Assembly Language (Motorola) class, my time for writing is pretty much screwed. I'll continue to make attempts at writing over the next couple of months, but I really don't see it happening until about mid-December. My apologies, in advance.
On another note, I know some people were complaining about how this crossover has been a little heavy-handed on the side of BtVS, so I have to warn you that this chapter will make it seem even heavier. I hadn't planned on the direction it went in, but a particular plot bunny got stuck in my head, and wouldn't go away. Then, voila, this chapter took on a life of its own. (And you'll probably kick my butt after I tell you that this chapter was completed a couple of months ago…cringe…I just didn't get around to formatting it for posting, until now.)
I promise that we'll get back to the SGC in the next chapter! Buffy still has to go on a REAL trip through the Stargate, and I'm itching to write that scene!
On another note…congratulations to 'anne' (Anonymous reviewer)! She was the only one who caught the 'Singing In The Rain' reference! For those of you who are going 'Huh?'…the 'speech' Buffy made, just prior to going through the Stargate, came from the musical 'Singing In The Rain'…it was the (paraphrased) speech given by the character 'Lina Lamont', just before she pulled a live, on-stage, 'Milli Vanilli' and got exposed. Good to know someone else enjoys the classics as much as I do.
NOTE: The answer to "What did Jack whisper to Buffy?" is at the end of this chapter…sorry you had to wait so long to find out what it was.
Someone to Watch Over Me
"Hey Jack! What's up?" a bright, cheerful voice called out.
Jack lifted his head, from where he was banging it on a door, to turn and scowl at the petite blonde.
"This is your doing, Summers!" he growled, pointing at a piece of paper taped to the door he had been banging his head against.
"Nope, not me…I can't draw to save my life. You have to admit, though, it's a pretty darn good likeness," Buffy smirked as she looked at the drawing.
"Yeah, but I'm sure you described that alien…thing to someone who could. How else would they have known it had four eyes, and looked like a cross between a Neapolitan Mastiff and a Pomeranian!"
Jack scowled at her before tearing the picture off the door.
After the events of their brief off-world trip two days ago, which ended up with Colonel O'Neill running for his life…his love life, that is…a drawing of said event began to immediately show up everywhere, much to one Colonel's dismay.
The drawing was a caricature of Colonel O'Neill, a disgusted look on his face, trying to shake an alien dog-like creature off his leg. A few line strokes bespoke of said creature's amorous movements on the Colonel's appendage. Below the drawing were the words 'O'Neill's version of Hump Day'.
"Hate to tell you, Jack…but there were three other people there, not to mention the fact that they're more likely to know who here on the base can draw," Buffy chuckled.
"So you're saying you had nothing to do with it?"
"I didn't say that," she grinned.
Jack's scowl deepened.
"Well, I'm off to see Teal'c. He promised to show me the weak spots in Jaffa armor," Buffy's grinned widened as she slapped him on the back. "Cheer up, Jack. I'm sure the General will put an end to it soon…at least when he stops laughing, and muttering something about karma."
Buffy walked away, a bounce in her step.
"You sure have your hands full with that one, Jack," a voice chuckled from behind the Colonel.
He spun around to see Major Ferretti, who seemed to be struggling not to laugh out loud.
Jack sighed. "She put one on my back, didn't she?"
This time Ferretti did laugh.
"Yup…" he pulled a piece of paper taped to the Colonel's back, then handed it to him. "Version 2.0."
When the Colonel saw the new drawing, one depicting him running away from the alien dog-like creature (that had hearts in its eyes) with the words 'Our Fearless Leader' on it, he turned back to the door and began banging his head on it again.
Buffy giggled, as she made her way to General Hammond's office to where she had been paged moments ago – interrupting her session with Teal'c.
Teal'c hadn't understood why she had fallen to the floor laughing when he opened the helmet up, to show her how it worked – she still couldn't get it out of her head that the Jaffa helmet reminded her of a Pez dispenser.
'I'll have to bring one in to show him,' she mentally laughed. 'Or better yet, get someone to make one with a Jaffa head.'
Buffy knocked on the General's door, and entered when his voice bid her to come in.
She was startled to see Colonel O'Neill ensconced in one of the chairs, a frown on his face.
"You wanted to see me, General?" she asked a little hesitantly, noticing that Hammond wasn't looking too happy either.
"Yes, Ms. Summers…please, have a seat," Hammond gestured at the chair on the other side of the desk.
"Am I in some kind of trouble? Is it about the pictures? It's all just fun and games, but if it bothers you…" Buffy began to babble nervously, but fell silent when O'Neill held up a hand for her to stop.
"You're not in trouble, Summers…at least not with us," the Colonel said quietly, but with a worried tone in his voice.
"I'm afraid the LAPD is insisting on a face-to-face interview with you, Ms. Summers," Hammond explained, an angry look on his face. "One of their detectives used your record to make a case against you, including re-opening the file on the murder of Deputy Mayor Allan Finch due to the confession of one Faith Lehane, and her connection to you – a confession which contradicts your given alibi."
Buffy paled. "D-does the detectives name happen to be Stein?"
The General searched through the stack of paperwork in front of him. Finding the relevant page, he skimmed the information then nodded his head. "Yes…a Detective Robert Stein, formerly of the…Sunnydale Police Department."
"Dammit…that jerk's been dogging me since my Junior year in High School," Buffy said shakily, dropping her head into her hands. "Why can't he just leave me alone!"
"The LAPD is pushing pretty hard, Ms. Summers – I need you to tell us everything…because, frankly, we can't help you if we don't know what happened."
Buffy lifted her head, a tired expression on her face as she nodded.
"God, where to start? I-I guess that would be Ted…" she began hesitantly, trying to remember everything that had happened so long ago – it felt like eons.
"A homicidal robot that dated my mother."
The two men started.
"Um…care to elaborate, Summers?"
Buffy gave a wane smile at their expressions.
"I'm serious…Ted was an extremely life-like robot created, in his own image, by some genius guy who's wife left him because he was dying. Unfortunately, robot-Ted had a few screws and some wires loose – he brought back wife number one, and pretty much kept her until she died, then he went out and got wife number two, number three, and number four…my mom apparently fit his demented profile and was going to be wife number five, but I got in the way…"
It was a long explanation, as Buffy tried to remember every detail of her various interactions with Detective Stein and the situations that brought them about, including the highs and lows of her relationship with Faith. She never comprehended just how much of her life that entailed.
Hammond and O'Neill listened, grim-faced, realizing that, even with everything Buffy had previously revealed, it only scratched the surface of the difficult life she and her friends had led.
"I-I just don't know why he keeps…stalking me. Faith said she made sure they knew I had nothing to do with the Deputy Mayor's death – that leaving me alone was part of the terms they agreed upon before she actually confessed."
"I can't believe you're still friends with her, after all she did," O'Neill shook his head in bewilderment.
"We were faced with the possibility that one or both of us wouldn't survive the last battle in Sunnydale, Jack. Everything that happened before just…didn't seem to matter anymore – we wanted to make our peace, in case we didn't have another chance," Buffy quietly replied. "I may have had a difficult life once I became the Slayer, but I understood long ago that Faith has had a difficult life period."
"That still doesn't explain why you lied, Ms. Summers," Hammond frowned.
"I was scared…simple as that. I was already reeling with…well, with a couple other highly emotional events. When Faith and I found out that Finch was involved with the latest 'bad-guy', well…let's just say Faith can be pretty convincing when she wants to be. If it had been anyone other than Detective Stein, I might have taken my chances…but, I knew I wouldn't get a fair chance with someone who'd been trying to pin something on me for the past year. I-I know it was stupid, but at the time…"
"…but at the time, you also had to worry about what the Mayor had planned, and knew, flat-out, that Faith would drag you down with her if you said anything. You couldn't risk Stein putting both of you away," the Colonel finished for her when she trailed off.
Hammond sighed, running a hand over his face. "I can't say I'm pleased about all this, Ms. Summers, but I also can't ignore the fact that the situation came about due to your responsibilities as the Slayer, or the fact that the LAPD failed to mention Faith's stipulation to her confession. Is there anything else we should be aware of?"
Buffy squirmed in her seat before hesitantly saying, "Not with me, no."
"Summers," O'Neill looked at her firmly.
"Jack, just…don't. It's nothing the Sunnydale PD knew about…of that, I'm sure."
"How can you be sure?"
"A-anything that could bring about questions doesn't…exist anymore," she said uncomfortably.
"Summers, if you're talking about bodies, you better explain…NOW!" O'Neill growled out.
"I can't!" Buffy snapped agitatedly before standing up and stalking away from her seat to look through the window into the conference room.
The Colonel abruptly stood to follow her, and grabbed her arm, swinging her around to face him.
"I'm starting to think you and your little band of friends believe you're above the law, Summers."
"Until you've gone up against an evil so pure it makes the Goa'uld look like fluffy puppies, don't you dare bring the law into this, Jack," Buffy tore her arm from his grasp. "You want to know about the bodies, I'll tell you. How about the one who killed one of my friends with a gun after he shot and almost killed me…or the one that housed a Hellgod…oh, and let's not forget about the not-so-innocent victim that was killed by his best-friend who had The First Evil whispering into his ear. You remember The First, don't you, Jack? How would you like to have heard that sweet little boy whispering into your ear for almost a year…telling you that you had to kill Daniel or Teal'c…or Sam…but not understanding that it's not him?"
O'Neill's face became blank at the mention of the time when The First had taken on the appearance of his dead son.
"The evil we fight has no rules, and it doesn't hesitate in using humans and their weaknesses to propagate itself. Until you understand that, you will never understand why the loss of those particular human lives, indirectly or by our own hands, shouldn't be held against us."
"Be that as it may, Ms. Summers, the U.S. Government does not make it a practice to harbor murders," Hammond interjected firmly.
Buffy crossed her arms and glared at the General.
"Doesn't it? Just because our government sanctions a war or a secret assassination doesn't make that loss of human life any less wrong," she uncrossed her arms and made her way to the door of the office. "I may not have had anything to do with the deaths, but I know who did, and the extenuating circumstances that drove their actions…so before you start pointing your fingers at the blood on our hands, take a good look at your own."
With that last parting shot, Buffy angrily left the General's office, slamming the door behind her.
O'Neill leaned back up against the wall and ran a hand over his face.
"I hate to say it, but she's got a point, George."
"I'm remembering some quote that involves sinners and throwing stones," the Colonel said as he pushed himself away from the wall and reclaimed his seat.
Hammond frowned. "Are you saying that you approve of their actions?"
"I'm saying that we're not so innocent ourselves, and we have no place in judging events we know nothing about. I get the feeling that there are other painful stories revolving around what she just told us…stories she's not ready to tell," placing his forearms on his thighs, he leaned forward, "We slipped up, George…we were so focused on the vampires and demons she told us about, we've forgotten to question where all the humans were during their battles. Summers and her friends are fighting an underground war – with the bits and pieces she's been revealing, we've made the mistake in thinking that the humans who died only fell under two categories…victim or collateral damage. We never took into account that some of the humans could be the evil they fought."
"So we should just leave it alone?"
"For now…yeah. Summers is right…we don't fully understand the evil they have to go up against – and it will use your weaknesses against you," O'Neill said as he rubbed his temple. "I've had the displeasure of meeting The First Evil, George, and it took the face of someone it had no right to. You don't have to worry about a repeat of the Sunnydale sink-hole, it's not powerful enough to do much of anything anymore, but I can tell you this…if the evil they fight is anything like The First, they really don't have any rules."
The Colonel stood and stiffly walked towards the door.
O'Neill paused in opening the door, but didn't turn around.
"Whose face did it take, son?" Hammond asked softly.
Jack bowed his head slightly and whispered, "Charlie's."
Not wanting to push such a painful issue, the General quietly said, "Tell Ms. Summers that I'll see what I can do about the situation."
O'Neill nodded sharply and exited the office.
Hammond leaned tiredly back in his chair, a wistful thought of retirement flitting briefly through his mind.
Taking a deep breath, he reached out and picked up the phone, punching one of the numbers on his speed-dial.
"Arthur? I need a favor."
If it wasn't for Ferretti, it might have taken O'Neill a lot longer to find Buffy. As it was, the Major had sought out the Colonel to tell him that his mini-blonde storm cloud had stomped her way up top, leaving a number of soldiers plastered against the sides of the corridor for fear of being the target of her anger.
Ferretti suggested Jack do something to bring back sunny weather, or the janitors were going to be spending most of their time peeling cadets off the wall.
With a small snort of laughter, the Colonel assured him he was already on his way to take care of it.
Upon reaching the surface, he asked the security guard where Summers had headed, and was amused when the young lieutenant pointed a shaking finger in a direction north of where they were standing.
Chuckling softly when the lieutenant asked if he needed back-up, he shook his head and began walking towards a well-known path, placing his cap and sunglasses on to reduce the brightness of the sun in his eyes.
It didn't take him long to find the clearing that was well-known by many SGC personnel, and Summers leaning back against the large rock in the center where she sat, one leg extended, the other bent, with one of her arms resting on it.
"So…are you here to make more accusations?" she asked without even looking at him.
"To make me spill?"
"To make me apologize?"
"Then why are you here, Jack?"
"To ask you out on a date."
She gave a small snort of amusement, her eyes flicking towards him briefly.
Jack moved closer, and his knees creaked as he bent them in order to sit next to her. He leaned his larger frame back against the rock, inches away from her.
"Actually, Ferretti begged me to get you in a better mood, so the SGC doesn't have to spend gobs of money to remove the new decorating scheme – you know…the abstract cadet splatters on the wall that'll need to be scraped off like those annoying pop-corn ceilings?"
Buffy chuckled before she smacked him lightly on the leg.
"Stop it…I wasn't that bad."
The Colonel lifted an eyebrow at her.
"Ferretti said the Goa'uld and an army of Jaffa looked a helluva lot less scary than your death-glare."
Buffy sighed. "Why are you here?"
Jack fiddled with the bill of his hat for a moment before responding.
"To say that maybe we were a little too…hasty in our judgment," he cleared his throat. "And that maybe we can understand why you don't want to talk about it."
"Is that an apology?" Buffy gasped, placing a hand against her chest in mock surprise.
"Of course not…at our age, men like George and I don't apologize – we just, in a round-about way, and with lots of maybe-type words, say that it could be possible that we don't have enough information to make a good assessment of the situ-mmmrph…"
Jack's words were muffled by Buffy's hand.
"Apology accepted," she gave him an amused smile.
His eyes twinkled back, just before he licked her hand.
"Eww!" Buffy wiped her hand on her leg before scowling at him. "Copycat."
"So we're OK?"
Jack sighed as he removed his hat, then ran a hand through his hair before replacing it.
"For now, Summers – but I hope you'll tell us everything soon…we don't like surprises, you know."
"I'm sorry, Jack…I honestly didn't know that Stein still had a boner for trying to pin something on me. It's been a long time since our last confrontation."
"Don't worry about it…Hammond said he'll take care of it."
"Do I wanna know?"
"Probably not. But I think you're gonna end up owing him one."
Buffy sighed and gracefully got to her feet. Holding out a hand, she pulled the Colonel up onto his.
"Any idea of how I can get a head start, not to mention a way to apologize for my not-so-sparkly behavior in his office?"
"Well…I know for a fact that he really loves carrot-cake. Maybe we can see if there's any in the Mess."
"Cake is good."
He smiled down at her as they walked back towards the mountain.
"Yup…the perfect apology food – I've yet to meet anyone who would turn down cake."
"Do I need to get you a slice too?"
"Summers…you pretty much owe me a truck-load by now."
Buffy laughed, and smacked him on the arm.
"I'm thinking we're just about even in the cake-owing, Jack."
"I told you…at my age, men like me…"
"…don't apologize, yadda, yadda, yadda. What…the more grey hair, the less wrong you are?" she smirked up at him.
"Where do you think the term 'young and stupid' came from, if not from distinguished-looking, wise gentlemen like myself?"
Buffy laughed. "Don't you mean wise-ass?"
Jack smirked, his eyes dancing with laughter as he looked down at the smiling blonde. 'Sunny weather, as requested, Ferretti.'
Neither of them noticed the young lieutenant picking up the phone and giving the 'all clear' to one of the cadets deep in the mountain. Word spread quickly, and many junior officers surfaced cautiously from their hiding places.
Ferretti had a good laugh over the stories that emerged, and mutated, from the whole situation…especially the one that compared an angry Summers to a pms-ing Balrog.
And a certain SGC commander, having stepped away from his office for a moment, returned to find a slice of carrot-cake on his desk, with a note that simply stated 'I'm sorry. B' attached to a toothpick.
As he ate the peace-offering, Hammond couldn't help but be amused at how, in a relatively short period of time, the small blonde woman could affect the mood of an entire base…even though most of them didn't know her.
"So, you ready for some real-life fighting scenarios?" Buffy said as she hopped up on a stool opposite Daniel.
"Hi Buffy," he responded absentmindedly. When her words sunk in, his head popped up. "What?"
"Boy, you're the epitome of the absentminded professor, these days," Buffy snickered. "I said, are you ready for some real-life fighting scenarios?"
"You know, ready to test your moves on a real, live…well, undead…person?"
"And for a third time…what?"
Sighing, Buffy rolling her eyes. "You've learned some moves, gotten good at them, now it's time to try them out in a less controlled fight, and with someone other than Teal'c. In other words, wanna go with us on patrol tonight and kick some vampire butt?"
Daniel's eyes widened for a moment before he dropped his gaze to the table before him and began to fiddle with a few items.
Buffy smiled at his movements, making a humorous mental note that Dr. Jackson fiddled when he was either nervous, or ready to tell a lie.
"I didn't realize you were still patrolling."
"Duh! If you recall our not so pleasant meeting with Whistler, you'll remember that he said I'd still be babysitting the Hellmouth…just not as much – I'm kinda surprised none of you guys have asked to come along again. Teal'c and I have been patrolling since I came here – four days out of seven…my sister takes the other three."
"Oh? How's she doing?"
"Giles says she's doing fine, and you are avoiding the question," Buffy drawled as she gave him a look.
"Are you sure I'm ready for this?" Daniel asked nervously.
"I wouldn't have asked if I didn't think you were," she replied honestly. "You may only know a dozen moves, but now is a good time to get the feel of when to use them, and which ones…unless you'd rather wait until you go up against a Jaffa?"
"So, you in?"
"Cool!" Buffy exclaimed as she hopped off the stool. "Teal'c and I usually head out about 2200 hours – are you going to be here, or should we swing by your house?"
"I'll stick around, and follow you in my car – that way I can head home afterwards. How long do you usually patrol?"
"Four hours or more, depending on what we find, so rest up, or plan on sleeping in late. Catch ya later, rock man!"
As Buffy bounced out of his office, Daniel groaned at the thought of a long, late night stroll through Colorado Springs, mixed in with an intense Krav Maga lesson, and wondered if he would be able to move for the rest of the weekend.
"So, here's the sitch…it's Friday night, and we mostly find action at the teen hang-outs – you know, dance clubs, make-out places, etc. The denial thing's already kicked in, but the locals have subconsciously recognized that Teal'c and I take care of certain…problems, so we don't have to worry about standing in lines, paying cover charges, or going head-to-head with the bouncers."
"Denial thing?" Daniel asked, confused.
"Oh…um…I never really explained that to you, did I?" Buffy said in surprise. "Your average Dick and Jane pretty much deny anything mystical – coming up with any excuse to make sense of something their brains just can't wrap themselves around. That's why I said to keep your eyes and ears open for really weird explanations of a death or injury…those will most likely be caused by a vampire or demon."
"Should you not inform DanielJackson of the oddities he will see at the Horned Toad, BuffySummers?"
Buffy looked at the large man in confusion for a moment, then remembered just what oddities he was referring to.
"Oh! Yeah…almost forgot about that," she turned a sheepish face towards Daniel. "One of the dance clubs we go to is run by demons. All the kids think they're wearing costumes."
"Don't you…uh…kill demons?"
"Not these ones – they're not carnivores…meaning they don't eat people. They're just trying to make a living so they can pay for the foods they do eat."
"What do they eat?"
"Cabbage…and yams. And they consider brussel sprouts a delicacy." Buffy scrunched her nose and shuddered. "Piece of advice…don't get close enough to smell their breath."
"In any case, the dance club is a 'no people-eating' zone – other demons are a no-show, but vamps pretty much ignore that rule…and it doesn't help that the Dreglott demons, the club owners, can't sense a vampire if their life depended on it. Teal'c and I have an unspoken agreement with the Dreglotts…we don't hurt them, they don't hurt us, and if we take out vamps on their turf, they turn a blind eye."
"Sounds…reasonable," Daniel responded slowly. "So how will I fit in on this patrol?"
"We'll follow the same routine we usually do, and when we come up against the baddies, Teal'c and I will reduce the number to one, then let you have a shot."
"And what should I do while you're fighting?"
Buffy removed two items from her jacket, and handed a cross and a stake to the archaeologist.
"Put your back against something solid, and watch for strays…the crosses will keep them at bay until we can get to you, and the stake is just in case. Don't try to take them on until Teal'c and I are there to make sure you don't become a meal."
"That's not exactly a real-life fighting scenario, Buffy," Daniel frowned.
"Daniel, vampires are extremely strong – when you get to the point where you can take one out on your own, I can tell you…Jaffa won't be a problem. But, right now, the fight needs to be controlled until the moves I taught you become instinctive. In addition, you need to learn how to quickly, and automatically, catalogue the items in your vicinity as potential weapons."
"So, don't put the cart before the horse…one step at a time…and all those other clichés Jack loves to hate?" he gave her a rueful smile.
"Now you're getting it," Buffy chuckled. She plucked the stake from his hand. "Turn around."
"Just turn around, Daniel."
He turned his back towards her, and felt Buffy tuck something into the waistband of his jeans.
"Now, do a couple of those moves I taught you, and see if the stake gets in the way."
Daniel looked up and down the street uncomfortably before performing several of the moves. He adjusted the angle of the stake until it didn't bother him.
"Good," the small blonde nodded in satisfaction. "Now, we're ready."
She looped her arm through his, and started walking down the street, Teal'c following quietly behind them.
"I've got to warn you, there's a lot of walking…I'm glad to see you dressed appropriately," she said as she ran her eyes over him.
He was wearing a pair of well-worn jeans, a soft cotton shirt with a light jacket over it, and a pair of sneakers.
"Well, chinos aren't as comfortable as jeans, and I don't think I'd hear the end of it if I lost a loafer during a fight," he chuckled.
"So, what do you and Teal'c usually do while you're patrolling? Besides the fighting, of course."
"We talk about stuff…earth customs, mostly. At least, I talk…Teal'c just nods, says 'Indeed' a lot, and sometimes asks questions," Buffy replied, throwing a cheeky grin over her shoulder at the larger man.
Teal'c just gave her an amused look and said, "Indeed."
Buffy laughed again.
Daniel chuckled at the thought of the vivacious Buffy and stoic Teal'c spending hours in each others' company…they made an odd pair.
The first two clubs were a no-go, but Daniel was enjoying himself as he listened to Buffy describing reality-tv to Teal'c, how many of the shows were skating the line of decency, and their likeness to soft-porn. When the large Jaffa asked what porn was, it was highly entertaining to see Buffy blush to the roots of her hair.
When Daniel made the mistake of chuckling, Buffy turned an evil grin towards him and told Teal'c to ask him.
Daniel countered with a suggestion that Jack might be the best person to answer that question.
The two of them laughed at the thought of the Colonel getting blind-sided by a question about video-taped sex.
But it wasn't until Buffy gasped out 'Sam' between her giggles that they really lost it, especially when she pointed out that angle, vector, force, and velocity would have an entirely new meaning in this context.
Daniel laughed so hard at that, he had to lean up against a wall in order to stay upright.
Teal'c just watched them with a raised eyebrow.
The Tauri were strange sometimes.
'Shouldn't Buffy be intervening at this point?' Daniel thought exhaustedly.
The archaeologist jabbed another fist at the vampire, who danced out of his reach.
'No fair that something that's technically dead should have more stamina than a live human being,' he mentally groused. 'Focus, Daniel. You can do this, or Buffy would have stopped it long ago.'
Taking advantage of the vampire's momentary distance, he took a quick glance around him. His eye caught sight of a useful object a few feet away, near the undead thing he was supposed to be taking out.
'Use your brain, Daniel…the vamp hasn't exactly screamed 'intelligent' during this whole round of fighting. If you play it right…'
Daniel stopped moving abruptly, and slowly walked up to the defensive vampire, confusing the undead being with his calmness.
The moment he was close enough, Daniel snatched up the broken piece of metal piping, and went to strike the vampire, who stopped the momentum by catching the end that was about to club him.
'Perfect!' Daniel thought, just before he moved his own end of pipe around the vampire's neck, used the undead creature's hold on the pipe against him, and snapped its neck in one sharp move.
He stepped back, panting heavily, as the vampire's body fell to the ground.
There was a sound of clapping, and he turned to see Buffy grinning at him.
"Sweet move, Daniel! Better finish him off before he recovers, though."
For a moment he looked confused, then remembered that Buffy explaining that a vamp isn't dead until he's dust. He pulled the stake from the small of his back, but hesitated as he looked down to see that the vampire had its human face back on.
"Do not hesitate, DanielJackson. If you let the creature escape, it will most likely seek out a victim upon which to feed this evening, if it has not already done so."
When put that way…Daniel quickly plunged his stake into the vampire's heart, but still grimaced at the action, nonetheless. It was one thing to confront a vampire in game-face, and another to kill it while it wore its human face…if it wasn't for the fact that the vampire exploded in a puff of dust, it might have haunted Daniel's dreams that night.
He stared expressionlessly down at the place where the vampire once lay, not sure just what he should be feeling.
Lightly touching Daniel's arm, Buffy softly said, "I still find it hard to kill them when they're in their human form too, Daniel – that's why I try to stake them while we're fighting…it's easier to accept it when you can see that they're not human."
Daniel sighed, but nodded his head in understanding.
"Are you ready to call it a night?" Buffy asked hesitantly.
"I'm OK," he responded softly as he tucked the stake back into the waistband of his jeans. He let Buffy thread her arm through his again as they headed to the next club. "I need to get used to the up close and personal kills, or I might freeze up when it happens off-world. I'd never forgive myself if something happened to my team because I…"
Buffy squeezed his arm.
With that kind of selfless attitude, she knew Dr. Daniel Jackson would be all right.
"You O.K. there, Summers?"
Buffy looked up at Colonel O'Neill, eyes filled with horror.
"Summers? What's wrong?" Jack frowned.
She handed him the sheet of paper she held in her hand.
Quickly scanning it, he let out a chuckle. "You're not planning to turn into a geek on me, are you?"
Scowling, Buffy snatched the paper back.
"It's not my idea! I figured some of the subjects I would have to study would be hard, but…but…this?" she waved the paper in front of her.
"What? You thought it would be filled with Puzzles and Snap-On-Tools 101?"
"Well, no…but I sure as hell didn't expect Calculus and Physics!"
Jack chuckled again, causing Buffy to pout.
"Jaaaaack…it's not funny! When the General was talking about me getting a degree, I was thinking something along the lines of…of Business…or, or, or…Business, not Brainalistic Nerdism!"
"Is that what they're calling Engineering degrees these days?" he replied with a grin.
"Engineering! But…but…that's an uber-smart-person subject for people like Sam, or…or Willow!" Buffy's shoulders drooped, and an uncertain look crossed her face. "I-I don't think I'm smart enough for…"
"Aaaaaah! Stop," Jack pointed a finger at her. "You're a lot smarter than you give yourself credit for, Summers."
"You won't know until you try."
Buffy glared at him.
Jack just glared back. "I'm older and wiser, so you should listen to me."
"Fine, I'm your CO, and you have to listen to me," the Colonel retorted as he removed a length of cloth from his pocket and shook it out. Holding it out, he said. "Now, put this on."
"Just put it on, Summers!" Jack said exasperatedly.
When she still didn't move, he rolled his eyes and maneuvered himself behind her and reached over her head to tie on the blindfold, but was stopped by Buffy's hands gripping his own and her wary gaze looking at him over her shoulder.
"Trust me, Summers."
Buffy hesitated a moment, then nodded her head as she released his hands.
Jack carefully tied the cloth snuggly, then gripped her shoulders as he slowly pushed her forward towards the elevator.
"Where are we going?"
"It's a surprise."
"Come on, give me a hint."
"Pleeeease?" Buffy whined, her hands out in front of her to keep from bumping into anything. While she trusted Jack not to injure her, she wouldn't put it past him to let her walk into a wall for amusement.
"Hmmm…that had a full fruity taste with a hint of oak."
"Are we there yet?"
"Are we there yet?"
"I have to go to the bathroom."
"Do I have to pull over and give you a spanking."
Jack chuckled as he continued to guide Buffy down the corridor. They were almost to their destination, but he didn't want to give anything away.
He opened a door, and gave the small blonde a push into the room.
Instinctively knowing they had reached their destination, Buffy placed her hands on her hips.
"So…you gonna tell me why we hiked through three floors and the Gateroom, just so you could take me back to my room?" Buffy quipped then, cocking her head to the side, she cheerfully said, "Hi Teal'c, Sam, and Daniel!"
Jack sighed exasperatedly.
"I told you she'd know, Jack," Daniel chuckled.
Still blindfolded, Buffy grinned. "If you had asked, I could have told you I can find my way around the base blindfolded. So, what's with the new furniture, and is that ink I smell? What…are you gonna fingerprint me?"
"How did you…? Never mind. Don't you ever turn your Slayer senses off?" Jack grumbled as he began to untie the blindfold.
"Not a good idea with all the ugly undead boogey-men arou…nd," Buffy trailed off as the blindfold was pulled away to reveal the 'surprise'. "What…"
She stared, dumbfounded, at the sight before her – it was a good-sized desk with a laptop, monitor, printer, and other accessories that make up a functional working area, and a small couch with a reading lamp at one end, a half-filled bookshelf separating the two.
"With all the studying you'll be doing, we thought it would be a good idea if you had an area designated for it, where you wouldn't be interrupted by day-to-day operations," Daniel said enthusiastically.
"And since you'll need equipment to complete your assignments, we scrounged up some spares – they're wiped clean of anything classified, so you don't need to worry about whether or not it's safe to take off-base," Sam added.
They watched as Buffy ran a hand over the desk, a stunned expression on her face.
"Y-you did this for me?" she whispered hoarsely, moisture gathering in her eyes.
Jack leaned over her shoulder and softly said. "Surprise."
Buffy froze for a moment before whirling around and grabbing the Colonel in a tight hug.
"Air, Summers…air!" Jack wheezed out.
"Sorry," the small blonde giggled soggily as she loosened her hold. "You know, Jack…if you continue to do things that make me cry into your shirt, I'm gonna have to start calling you my personal sponge."
"As I said before, I don't mind, as long as you don't wipe your boogers on it."
Laughing, Buffy stepped back and wiped the moisture from her eyes before moving to give the other three hugs of thanks.
"This means a lot…thank you."
"It was our pleasure, BuffySummers," Teal'c bowed, a gleam of satisfaction in his eyes.
Grinning, Sam and Daniel murmured in agreement.
Buffy grinned back and turned to sit at the desk, and started opening drawers.
"Oh! I almost forgot!" Sam exclaimed as she pulled out a folded piece of paper from her pocket. Stepping up to the desk as she smoothed it out, Sam leaned over and tacked it onto the hanging cork-board. "This is a list of people who can help out if you get stuck on anything, and the names and phone numbers of the instructors so you can call when you're ready to take the exams. I should be getting the information on the test and assignment requirements this afternoon."
"Wow…that's a lot of names."
"Half of which probably want to ask you out. Ow!" Jack rubbed his ribs where Daniel had elbowed him.
"And on that note, we'll take our leave," Daniel smirked.
As the others shuffled out of the room, Jack lingered a moment.
"Hey, Summers…if you're beginning to get worried about falling footwear…" he reached out to the bookshelf, pulled two thick books, and dropped them on the desk in front of her, "here's your butt-ugly 70's clogs."
Buffy looked at the titles and groaned. "Funny, Jack…funny."
Jack smirked as he strolled out the door.
Sighing, Buffy pointed a finger back and forth between the books as she chanted, "Calculus, Physics, both subjects suck, with which one should I try my luck. If my brain explodes today, I'll have Willow make Jack gay. Physics it is."
She carefully cracked the book open.
"Wow! This place is huge, Giles! Are you sure it's not too big? It's not like we have a large staff," Buffy exclaimed.
Watcher and Slayer gazed around the large open space of the main floor, which was an exact duplicate of the seven floors above them.
"This place isn't even half the size of the original Council building, Buffy – in any case, most of the space will be needed for the library and magical items, and it still won't be enough room, which is why I've also made arrangements to purchase the other three buildings on this block."
Buffy gaped at him.
"Damn, Giles…I didn't think you'd to be the type to go wild and crazy when you got a hold of moolah."
"I don't believe purchasing buildings for the new Watcher's Council Headquarters is…uh…wild and crazy, Buffy. If anything, it was the previous Council who made frivolous use of their funds – 827 properties in 40 countries…ridiculous, if you ask me."
"827 properties! Please tell me that some of them are on a nice pretty beach, and that we're gonna keep 'em! Pleeeeease."
Giles smiled down at the small blonde at his side, "Well…I suppose we could hold on to one or two of them…"
"Yes!" Buffy punched a fist into the air in triumph.
Chuckling, Giles motioned towards the front doors, and the two made their way out of the empty building.
"Are you sure this won't be a problem with General Hammond, Buffy? I could delay…"
"No, no…everything's cool. They haven't gotten me on the roster yet, so it's better to do it now. Besides, it'll give me a chance to get used to all the studying again – I forgot how hard it is to use my brain."
Rolling her eyes, Buffy retorted, "You know what I mean! Tactical stuff, apocalypses, fighting…no prob…but math is a different puppy."
Wrapping an arm around her shoulder, the Watcher looked down at her with a smile, "I'm just pleased that you took them up on their offer, Buffy. I know it will be difficult, but I want you to know how proud I am of you."
Buffy beamed up at him.
"Now what say we grab a bite to eat and go over my list of instructions for Dawn's training. Xander is already handling the construction arrangements for what we need, so you don't need to worry about that, but I would like you to take care of the shipments that will be arriving over the next few days, as well as working with the coven members who agreed to replace the protection spells…"
Buffy listened intently as Giles sketched out the basics of what needed to be taken care of in his absence, but worried over the one concern she had about filling in for her Watcher while he was gone…Xander.
To be honest, after their last argument, not to mention the fact that she hadn't spoken to him in two months, Buffy had no idea how he was going to react to her presence.
"She's not here."
"I can see that Daniel. Do you know where I can find her?"
"Not here on the base, Jack – didn't you get the memo?"
"There was a memo?"
Daniel sighed. "Yes, Jack, there was a memo."
"Well, did this memo happen to say where Summers is?"
"No, just that Buffy wouldn't be here for a few days."
"What about my reports!"
"What about them?"
"Ask General Hammond, Jack. The memo just said Buffy would be out for the next 10 days, and not to schedule anything for her."
Daniel just shoved the memo in front of Jack's face.
The Colonel skimmed through the memo which, yes, stated that Summers was gone for ten days. "Oh. How come I didn't get a memo?"
"Because you never go to your office, Jack."
"I have an office?"
The archaeologist just sighed and pointed a finger towards the door. "Out."
"A bit touchy today, are we?"
Jack smirked as he headed towards the door. "Guess I'll go bug Hammond about letting my report-typer escape from the joint."
"I was just about to send someone for you…close the door, Colonel," Hammond said abruptly before gesturing O'Neill towards a chair.
"So, what's up with Summers? Family emergency? Appointment with a seamstress to get fitted for her uniforms? Apocalypse?"
"None of the above. She's taking over the training of her sister while Mr. Giles is in England, among other things, Colonel."
"England? What's in England?"
"That's what I wanted to talk to you about. As I understand it, he's making arrangements to take over the old Watcher Council's assets, and shipping them here to Colorado Springs…several shipments, I might add."
"How many is several?"
"At least three dozen flights that we know about, and that information was not given by Ms. Summers."
"A personal friend was extremely concerned that cargo planes from several countries including Russia, China, and Germany, are scheduled to arrive, or are already there, in Britain…all of which have flight plans that will put them here."
"Simms told us that Summers had powerful people in other countries looking out for her, so what's the problem with international cargo planes bringing a bunch of musty books?"
"It's not the planes I have a problem with, Colonel…it's the fact that they'll be manned by undercover military personnel from several countries including Russia, China, and Germany. It's the fact that several of said military personnel are already here, right under our noses. It's the fact that Mr. Giles has purchased four buildings on the same block, and flown in several international contractors to work on said buildings, installing both the best high-tech surveillance equipment available and a number of large safes. Any of which should have raised some sort of red-flag to several agencies, especially at the Pentagon!"
"Can I assume that no one knows?"
"You'd assume correctly," Hammond clipped out with a frown. "I want to know what they're bringing in that requires four dozen foreign military personnel here on work or vacation visas, with more flying in, Colonel."
"Should I warn Summers that you're not a happy camper?"
"Ms. Summers made mention that shipments coming from England would start arriving two days from now, but I didn't get the feeling that she knew anything about the people who would be bringing them - so, at the moment, I'm withholding judgment. Get me some answers, Colonel," the General said gruffly as he held out a slip of paper.
O'Neill grasped the proffered item and scanned it before whistling. "Sweet location…how did they manage that?"
"It was sold to them by a family that has been here since the city first formed…for a bargain price…the funny thing is, those buildings have never been occupied since they were built 85 years ago, though they've been updated several times due to code issues."
"Kinda makes you think that they knew something no one else did."
"I want answers, Colonel. Dismissed."
O'Neill exited Hammond's office with a frown.
Jack spun around, only to be confronted by the guy from the Control Room.
"Sir, I have a message for you…it's from Ms. Summers."
"Yes, sir," the Sergeant handed him a piece of paper, and turned to leave.
"Sergeant. You wouldn't be able to tell me how she sounded, would you?"
"When she called, how did she sound?"
The man hesitated a moment before slowly saying, "I would have to say…concerned, and maybe a little bit nervous, sir. She also insisted that I underlined the words 'Dress Normal', which I assume meant to make sure you wore civvies, sir."
"Thank you, Sergeant," O'Neill gestured that he was free to leave, and looked down at the message which gave Summers' name, phone number, her message to dress normal, and a request that he meet her…at the address General Hammond had just given him.
"Just what are you up to, Summers?"
Jack hopped up to sit on the crate next to a somewhat subdued Buffy. He glanced around the large space where several men were busily installing shelves, wiring, and what-have-you…and giving him suspicious looks.
"Care to tell me why you've got a few dozen foreign military personnel here on the sly?"
"You noticed, huh?" she gave him a nervous smile.
"We were informed, actually…but considering that they're all packing various weapons and giving me the evil eye, I think I would have guessed anyway."
"I didn't know, Jack, honest…and before you ask, Giles didn't either."
"Glad to hear it – Hammond wasn't exactly jumping for joy when he found out. Care to tell me how this came about?"
Buffy pulled her legs up and wrapped her arms around them before taking a deep calming breath.
"Giles said the Royal family commandeered the Council's assets shortly after the explosion…apparently, they're aware of Slayer's and Watchers, and provide some of the financial backing to keep the Council running. Giles got to meet the Queen…you should have heard him gushing," Buffy trailed off at a look from Jack, and cleared her throat. "Um…anyway…after Giles signed the papers to become the head cheese, he told them he was moving the Council to the U.S. – word got around to the other backers, and they just kinda…took over…sending planes, people, money, and other support…we didn't know just what type of people until I met them this morning and noticed all the nice little weapon-shaped lumps they were sporting. So, I called Giles, he called around, then called me back with what info he knew. Then, I called you."
"So, are they going to be a problem?"
Before Buffy could answer, they were interrupted by a male voice with a thick Russian accent, "I do not believe we are a problem, though I must ask Ms. Summers if you will be."
Buffy sighed as a tall muscular man with graying dark hair moved to stand in front of them.
"Hi Yury. Jack, I'd like you to meet…"
"Colonel Dozhdalev of the SVR," Jack said sharply.
"The Russian Air Force."
"So you say."
Dozhdalev gave him a brief smile. "It has been some time, Colonel O'Neill. I had hoped the U.S. military would remain unaware of our presence during our brief stay."
"Yeah, about that…"
Buffy hopped off the crate, and poised to flee.
"Well, it looks like the two of you have a lot to catch up on…"
"Sit, Summers," Jack growled, pointing at the spot she had just vacated.
The small blonde scowled at him. "I'm not your damn dog, Jack."
The Colonel's tone was so furious, Buffy could only gape at him.
"I believe it would be better to continue this conversation in private, Colonel," Dozhdalev replied, his own tone filled with anger. "Ms. Summers, would it be possible to use the main research room? I will join you as soon as I assure the men that Colonel O'Neill is not a…threat."
Buffy nodded, and watched as the man walked away, leaving her with one absolutely furious U.S. Air Force Colonel.
"Jack…" the small blonde began tentatively.
"Save it, Summers! This is bad…very, very bad."
Paling, Buffy just nodded her head and gestured for Jack to follow her.
Maneuvering through the workers, she took him to one of the larger buildings, and Jack couldn't help but be somewhat impressed with the workmanship done within the finished building…not to mention the security.
The small blonde took him to the third floor, which was filled with several sleek-looking wooden tables surrounded by comfortable chairs.
Neither of them sat, and Buffy awkwardly watched the Colonel pace the room – she was relieved when Dozhdalev arrived a short time later.
"Why are you here, Colonel O'Neill?" the Russian officer asked sharply.
"I think I should be the one asking that, Colonel Dozhdalev," O'Neill shot back.
Buffy quickly stepped in, "He knows, Yury."
"Knows what, Ms. Summers?"
"Slayers, Watchers, Hellmouths, demons, vampires…everything," she said, her gaze flitting over towards Jack.
"How did he find out?"
"She told us," Jack replied sharply as he strode up to them and leaned back against a nearby table.
Frowning at the small blonde, Dozhdalev only said, "Was that wise, Ms. Summers?"
Buffy shrugged, "The jury's still out on that one, Yury, but Whistler was the one to spill the beans first – The Powers That Be wanted me to work with them, as a Slayer. Only a few people know, though."
Dozhdalev gave Colonel O'Neill a speculative look. "There have been…rumors…of a classified project in your mountain, Colonel – can I assume that is where Ms. Summers is working?"
Jack's expression became blank, and his eyes hardened.
The Russian man held up a hand.
"Be at ease, Colonel…as far as I am aware, there are only rumors, and very little information. We will speak of it no more, but I can assure you we are not here to obtain information in regards to it."
"Then why are you here, Dozhdalev? Just what are you bringing in that requires a Russian spy…" Jack rolled his eyes at the other Colonel's raised eyebrow, "…fine, a Russian Air Force Colonel…what is it that needs you in addition to several other international military personnel?"
"Whatever you may think, Colonel O'Neill, none of us are here as a representative of our respective countries. It is because of our individual skills, and the fact that each of us are descendents of the original caretakers, that we were chosen to provide protection for that which is coming."
"And that would be…?"
A faint smile graced Dozhdalev's lips as he dropped his bombshell, "The Library of Alexandria, Colonel."
Well that was something Jack was definitely not expecting.
"The Library of Alexandria!"
"The very same, though it has gone by many other names. Contrary to what our history states, the Library was never burned…correction, the building was, but it happened many years after the original contents were secretly removed to a safer location, and copies left in their place, when the conflict between Christians and Pagans were deemed to be a threat. I am sure you are intelligent enough to comprehend just who many of the Pagans were."
"The Council of Watchers," O'Neill responded, shaking his head in disbelief, "which is why none of this is in any history books, right?"
Dozhdalev gracefully bowed his head in acknowledgement. "With the spread of Christianity, and its violent refusal to believe that evil had any physical forms other than human, it was believed the best course of action would be to go into hiding. And only by the guidance of various prophecies did the Library survive."
"Ick…prophecies. Believe me, Jack…you never want to mess with prophecies – they have this annoying tendency to come true," Buffy said with a grimace.
Jack gave a quick glance towards Buffy before turning his attention back to the Russian Colonel.
"I get that the Library needs to be protected, but why you? Why not hire some muscle…non-military muscle?"
"It has been nearly 1600 years since the Library has ever been this vulnerable, and word has already spread. We will not put innocents into such danger."
"Danger? From what?"
"Demons, vampires, you name it," Buffy replied with a frown. "Word spreads quickly in the demon world, Jack. Just because they don't look human, doesn't mean they don't know how to use a phone. Yury and the others are here to help protect the shipments from demon attacks – you can bet they'll be hitting us hard…several times…maybe even during the daytime. This is their first shot, in a long time, to try and get rid of the only written information that tells us how to destroy them."
Jack rubbed a hand over his face in weariness.
"I'm sorry, Jack…I would have told you, but I didn't find out until a couple of hours ago."
Dozhdalev frowned as he looked back and forth between the two, concerned that the situation would create problems for the Slayer.
"Do not place blame on Ms. Summers, Colonel O'Neill…the old Council had long kept the Slayers in the dark – something which would have never happened if they hadn't…how do you say it?...squeezed us out centuries ago. The British Royal family was quite upset when they recently discovered that the Council had evolved into a self-serving conglomerate that would only accept those of British descent within its main headquarters, and who had become so…perverted in their duties."
O'Neill just sat there in silence, looking out into the empty room as he thought.
Not liking the quietness, Buffy nervously said. "What are you gonna do, Jack?"
He sat there for a moment before tapping his hand on the table. "I don't like this, Summers…Hammond's not gonna like this."
"But I get it, I just don't know if Hammond will," O'Neill cut her off as he stood. "I'll see what I can do, but I want a list of who's here, who will be arriving, rank and country, where you're staying, and a full list of arrival and departure dates…and that's not an option, Colonel."
"Very well, Colonel," Dozhdalev replied coolly before turning to Buffy. "Would you be so kind as to retrieve my briefcase from the temporary office, Ms. Summers?"
Buffy looked suspiciously between the two Colonels. "Yeah, sure."
As soon as the small blonde left the room, Dozhdalev pinned O'Neill with a serious look, "There will be names familiar to you on this list, Colonel O'Neill…people who you will wish to detain for certain reasons – I can only ask that you do not."
"You must understand, Colonel, those descendents who have taken positions in the military only did so for one purpose…to protect her. And though we loathe many of the tasks we are commanded to perform, we stayed so we could use our positions to protect her predecessors, we stay to protect her, and we will continue to stay to protect the ones who will follow, should she ever fall. Please…do not take that protection away."
"So you're saying these certain reasons are tied to the Slayers?"
"Many a powerful man has fallen by our hands to keep the Slayer out of theirs," he replied with a fierce gaze.
Before Jack could respond, Buffy returned and handed the Russian Colonel the briefcase.
Dozhdalev opened it, pulled out a folder and locked gazes with O'Neill.
"All the people on this list are here only to protect the shipments, and will leave by next Friday – I give you my word as a descendent of Theon of Alexandria, the last director of the Library during its final days in Alexandria. Trust me…Jack."
With that, he held the folder out to Jack, who quickly looked it over.
"Awwww man! Dammit, dammit, dammit!" Jack pounded a fist on the table with each 'dammit'. "Eisen's coming!"
"I would think that you'd have more of a problem with Kaufmann."
"Kaufmann never shot me!" Jack growled before running a hand through his hair. "Dammit! Hammond's really not gonna like this…several of these names are on a 'detain' list."
"There are…reasons, Colonel."
The two men exchanged glances.
"What are you guys talking about?" Buffy glared at them suspiciously.
"Nothing, Summers. Dozhdalev…I'll see what I can do, but I'm pretty sure he's gonna want to have some American eyes in here."
"And there are four pairs of American eyes on that list…to which you yourself are welcome to join, Colonel…we could always use another competent commander."
"No! No, no, no! Jack needs to stay as far away from here as possible," Buffy said stubbornly. "This isn't his fight, Yury!"
"He is human…it is very much his fight, Ms. Summers," Dozhdalev responded respectfully.
"But he doesn't have the right equipment."
"I'm talking weaponry, Jack, not the little soldier," Buffy rolled her eyes.
"We have brought enough to arm him and many others," the Russian Colonel countered.
"He's too busy! He's got…stuff, a-and lots of other stuff to do, like reports," Buffy growled as she glared at the smirking Colonel.
"Face it Summers, I'm gonna be here…I'm sure Hammond will insist on it."
Buffy threw her hands up in the air in exasperation as she growled, "Fine! But you're not allowed to fight at ground zero…you don't know how to use a sword, and I don't want to have to explain to General Hammond how his favorite Colonel tried to play Gladiator and got broken."
The small blonde stomped out of the room.
"I must say, for a Slayer, Ms. Summers is quite…unique," Dozhdalev said with a faint smile.
"The other Slayers I have had the fortune to meet were very…docile…in comparison."
Jack chuckled. "Dozhdalev, docile is one word you'll never be able to apply to Summers, unless she's tied up, gagged, and tranqued."
Jack was not having fun.
Well, at first he was…especially the part when he revealed what the shipments entailed – he'd never seen Hammond gob smacked before – but when he handed over the list of names…hoo-boy.
The yelling still wasn't over.
Being the survivor that he was, Jack didn't make a peep during Hammond's tirade. And when it was over, made his suggestions, then sat through another outburst.
Summers was going to owe him big time after this.
It was only after a conference call with the Secretary of Defense, Arthur Simms, that Hammond finally began to calm down – apparently, Simms personally knew, and fully trusted, two of the "four pairs of American eyes" on the list, which gave a lot of support to O'Neill's suggestions.
Hammond still insisted Jack be present, take the rest of SG-1 with him, and snag the two newest recruits, Miller and Templeton, for extra manpower.
At least the General was going to let him sleep in his own bed tonight, as long as Miller and Templeton stayed with Dozhdalev and his crew.
After that, it was an onsite, round the clock, week of mystical battles…with no guns.
"Ow…are you done kicking my ass, or are we going for round 372 of beat the hell out of Dawn?"
Buffy grinned evilly down at where her sister was sprawled on the ground, clothing ripped, wrinkled, and dirty.
"Well, I don't know…I've still got a few moves that I want to try out on you…especially the ones that Giles taught me last year. I thought I did a pretty good job in giving you the smack down with the back kick Giles showed me a few years ago, and the punching combo Giles insisted I learn, not to mention the head kick Giles made me practice over and over…"
"OK, I get it, I get it…listen to Giles, learn from Giles, obey Giles, don't annoy Giles…"
"I didn't say you couldn't annoy him, but you got the other stuff right," Buffy replied as she held out a hand to Dawn. Pulling her up, she said, "He's why I survived so long, Dawnie – work with him…I don't want to lose you."
"I'll try, Buffy."
"Don't try, do." Stepping back, a look of concern crossed Buffy's face. "Dawn…the battle that's coming up…I don't want…"
"Don't make me stay out of it, Buffy! I have every right to be there!"
The small blonde cocked her head, continuing where she left off, "…to worry about you. I need you there, but I also need to know that you'll follow orders. You're not ready to lead others yet, but this is a good opportunity for you to learn from those who can. Can you do that?"
"Yes," Dawn firmly replied, then gave Buffy a hug. "Thanks, Buffy."
"I don't think you'll be thanking me when it's over, and you're trying to wash demon guts from your hair. Now, come on, let's do some real training, then grab something to eat before patrol."
The two girls burst into the house in a fit of giggles.
"So then he's all 'what's your sign baby'," Dawn snorted. "And I'm like 'a stake in the house of heart, with dust rising in Uranus'."
Buffy cracked up. When she caught her breath, she mock-wiped her eyes, "My little sis, making with the quips as she dusts the baddies…I'm so proud."
The two started laughing again.
A male voice interrupted their laughter. "You're later than usual, Dawn…I was getting worried."
The smile fell from Buffy's face, and was replaced with one of uncertainty as she caught sight of her best-friend. "Hi Xander."
Dawn looked between the two, and hurried to fill the awkward silence. "There were a lot of demons and vamps out because of the stuff that Giles is sending…we had to be careful not to get into something we couldn't handle, but wanted to take out as many as we could before things got nasty tomorrow – we pretty much walked the entire city, I think."
"Bumps, bruises, and scratches, but nothing big."
The three stood there in awkward silence again before Dawn shifted uncomfortably.
"I'm gonna get a glass of water…I think I swallowed half a dusted vamp."
The slim brunette maneuvered around Xander and headed for the kitchen, leaving the two friends trying to find something to say.
"Um…how've you been Xander?"
"That's…good," Xander replied uneasily.
There was another moment of awkward silence before the young man gestured Buffy into the living room. The two sat perched on the edge of their seats, almost as if they were making ready to flee at any moment.
Buffy waived her hand at her head, "Thought things."
Shifting in his seat, Xander slowly replied, "Not…good."
"Oh," Buffy cleared her throat. "Should we talk about it?"
"I don't know if that's a good idea yet."
Buffy looked down at her clasped hands. "I hate this."
The two sat in silence for another moment before Buffy gathered her courage enough to ask, "Can you at least tell me the biggest reason why you hate me now?"
"I don't hate you, Buffy."
Tears gathered in her eyes as she replied, "Yes, you do. Even if you don't want to, you can't help it, Xander."
Xander ran a hand over his face, his fingers briefly getting tangled in the strap of his eye-patch. He traced a finger over the edge of the patch.
"That's why, isn't it? You blame me for your eye."
"No," Xander answered abruptly.
"Yes, you do! It's a constant reminder to you that I screwed up and you paid the price!"
"No it's not! We've all lost something over the years, Buffy – you more than anyone!"
"If it's not your eye, then what is it! I can't fix it if you won't tell me!" Buffy cried out as she stood up abruptly.
A change came over him, and just as quickly, Xander jumped to his feet and yelled back, "That's just it…you could have, but you didn't!"
She froze. "What do you mean?"
"You could have fixed it, Buffy, but you didn't even bother asking," the dark-haired man snarled.
"I don't understand...what…"
"The giving, Buffy…the spreading of the wealth from The Powers – you didn't even ask them to fix my eye…everything was about you. Willow and I have done just as much over the years, but you didn't even think to demand something for us!" he growled, fists tightening. "Are we worth so little to you?"
"I-I…" Buffy paled.
"Hellooooooooo…I'm home!" a cheerful male voice called out before a head popped around the corner of the room. "Is anyone still up? Buffy!"
A young blonde-haired man quickly skipped up to the young woman, and engulfed her in a hug.
"It's good to see you! How have you been? Are those military guys treating you well?" the man gushed.
"Hello, Andrew. Things are…good," Buffy replied with a pale smile.
Andrew finally noticed the strained atmosphere, and the smile fell from his face.
"I interrupted something, didn't I?" He wrung his hands. "I did! Are you guys fighting? Please tell me you guys aren't fighting!"
Buffy hesitated a moment before slowly saying, "We're just…getting a few things out into the open, Andrew."
"Yeah," Xander responded in a clipped tone. "Airing of the dirty laundry and all that."
"Xander!" Buffy snapped before her tone softened. "Xander…you and Willow do mean a lot to me, but my first priority was to make sure that we controlled the Council – I couldn't afford to have anyone else rebuild it into what it used to be."
"Yeah…you and Giles," he spat out. "And you even made sure that Giles would be around longer, just so you could make sure everything went your way for the next 40 or 50 years."
"That's not why I did it! God, Xander…do you really think I'm that selfish!"
Xander just sneered.
"Fine, think what you want! But before you get locked into the 'Buffy is selfish' mantra, let me tell you the real reason!" Buffy said angrily. "I owed him! Yeah, that's right Xander! I owed him…a helluva lot more than I did you or Willow! Do you think I don't know how much he's given up for me? Or how many injuries he took for me…even the ones that I caused, which he took without complaint. Giving him back some of his youth may seem like a lot to you, but it's a pittance compared to what he deserves. I can never repay him for everything he's done and given up for me, Xander…never!"
The air seemed to go out of Xander, and he sat back down on the couch with a thump.
"Whatever you may think, I didn't forget about you and Willow, Xander. Why do you think I pushed so hard for control of the Council assets? It was because you, and Willow, and Giles were the Council…for the past seven years, you guys were my Council, not the stuffy guys in England…and it was about time you started reaping the benefits."
Xander's head popped up at that. "What…?"
"The Council needs to be rebuilt, Xander…who do you think I want to be the heart of it?"
Buffy walked over and sat on the coffee table in front of the dark-haired man and clasped his hands in hers.
"I need you, Xander…Dawnie needs you. We can get through this, I know we can. Please don't give up on us," she whispered, voice thick with tears.
Xander pulled his hands from hers and covered his face as he hunched over his lap. His body shook with his emotions.
Buffy stood, grasping him in a hug, and Xander buried his face into her stomach, wrapping his arms around her waist.
A long moment later, Xander's muffled voice whispered, "Buffy, please don't take this the wrong way, but…I-I need you to leave."
"I…I don't trust myself with you right now."
Buffy let out a little sob and bent down to kiss the top of his head.
"I love you, Xand…I'll always love you – remember that."
With another kiss on his head, Buffy extricated herself from the embrace and turned to leave the room.
She caught sight of both Andrew and Dawn standing at the entrance to the room, tears in their eyes.
They stepped aside to let Buffy through, and Dawn followed her up to their room where Buffy's suitcase was located.
"He's trying, Buffy."
"I know, Dawnie," the small blonde whispered as she brushed the tears from her eyes.
"Do you…do you have somewhere to go? Do you want me to call a cab to take you back to the mountain?"
"No…no, I've got somewhere, don't worry about me."
"How are you going to get there?"
"It's not too far away. I'll walk…the fresh air will probably do me some good, anyway," Buffy shrugged.
"Take a cab, please Buffy…it's…it's too busy out there tonight. Please," Dawn begged.
Seeing the fear in her sister's eyes, she nodded her head, and began packing up the few items she had removed from her suitcase, while Dawn made the call.
That late at night, it didn't take long for the cab to arrive, and after hugging Dawn and Andrew goodbye, Buffy left…again.
The two entered the living room where Xander sat, head thrown back and an arm covering his eyes.
"You gotta talk to Giles, Xander…you aren't getting better – if anything, it's getting worse," Dawn said seriously.
"Yeah…Mr. Giles can help! He's like…like a modern day Yoda, with all the good advice, and-and the good advice…only with a British accent and better sentence structure," Andrew offered lamely.
Xander cracked a small smile at that as he dropped his arm to the couch. A look of sadness crossed his face. "I'll try, guys. It's just…Giles and Buffy are making progress with repairing their own relationship…I don't want my problems to ruin that."
"He'd want to help, Xander…you know that. Talk to him," Dawn replied softly.
"I'll try, Dawnie."
"Do or do not...there is no try," Andrew offered sagely.
Xander gave him a faint smile and nodded before turning his gaze to his lap.
Andrew and Dawn exchanged worried glances, then left the older man to his thoughts.
The slamming of a car door may have woken Jack, but it was the sound of approaching footsteps that made him sit up.
Hearing a faint knocking, he grabbed his robe and quickly donned it as he made his way to the front door.
He was surprised at the visitor on the other side.
"Summers? What…" he broke off when she looked up at him and he caught sight of her red-rimmed eyes and wobbly smile. "Never mind."
He stepped back to let her in, the sight of her reminding him not to give any type of invitation to night-time visitors.
"You wouldn't happen to have a couch I could borrow for the night…" she asked hesitantly as she stepped through the doorway, hefting her suitcase behind her.
"You wanna talk about it?"
"Not especially, no," Buffy responded tiredly.
As curious as he was, Jack figured he could save the pushing for the morning, which wasn't too far off. Summers looked beat, anyway.
"Come on then, I got a spare room."
Jack took her deeper into the house, pointed out the location of the bathroom before leaving her to make herself comfortable in his guest bedroom. Five minutes after returning to his own bed, he didn't hear any sound of movement from the spare room, which told him Summers was a helluva lot more tired than she had looked if she fell asleep that quickly.
He took a moment to go through what he knew about her group, and could only come up with one conclusion. Saving that information in the back of his mind, he relaxed, and let himself drift off into sleep again.
"Morning, Summers…coffee's over there, mugs are in the cupboard above it," Jack said cheerfully as he pointed his spatula towards the coffee-maker.
Buffy shuffled towards the coffee with a muffled, "Mrfmn."
Jack chuckled as he went back to his cooking.
The small blonde poured herself a cup of java, and the Colonel grimaced as he watched her add enough sugar to make his own teeth ache in sympathy.
She shuffled over to the breakfast table and sat heavily in one of the seats, huddling over her mug.
"I'm guessing you're not much of a morning person," Jack smirked as he scraped eggs onto two plates filled with other breakfast items and carried them over to the table. Setting one of the plates in front of the groggy blonde, he said, "Eat."
Buffy sighed, but picked up a fork and began to methodically eat.
The two sat in silence as they finished their meal.
When she was done, Buffy placed her fork on the empty plate and sat back with a groan.
"Thanks, Jack…that hit the spot."
"Oh boy…is that an understatement," she said with a grimace. "There are so many demons and vampires in the city, my skin is literally crawling. It doesn't make for a good night's sleep."
"It's gonna be bad, isn't it?"
Buffy let out a heavy breath, "Oh yeah."
"So, what happened with Xander last night?"
"The monsters under the bed weren't what brought you to my door, Summers."
"I don't want to talk about it, Jack," Buffy replied stiffly as she stood and went to pour herself another cup of coffee.
Ignoring her, Jack pushed forward, "Willow's gone, Giles is out of town, you and Dawn didn't seem to have a problem, and that other guy, what's his name…Adam, Arthur, Ahab…"
"Andrew…was barely a footnote in your story I'm pretty sure you don't have a beef with him, so that leaves us with Xander…the guy who pretty much yelled the loudest when you left to join us. What did he do?"
"I said I don't want to talk about it!"
Grabbing his own mug, Jack moved towards the coffee pot. He set his cup down and loomed over the small woman.
"It's eating at you, Summers…you can't afford to be distracted right now!"
"I can handle it, Jack!"
"Maybe, but do you really want to take that chance?"
When Buffy didn't answer, O'Neill grabbed the coffee pot and filled his mug before reaching up into the cupboard for a carafe. Dumping the rest of the coffee into it, he sealed the lid shut.
"Since Giles isn't here for you to talk to…" Jack broke off when he saw the flash of pain cross her face before Buffy ducked her head. Leaning up against the counter, he softly said, "You haven't been able to talk to anyone for a long time, have you?"
For a moment, Buffy didn't say anything, but eventually her shoulders drooped as she gave a soft, "No."
"Come on, Summers…grab the sugar, and let's take this to the living room."
Buffy complied, and quietly shuffled after him.
After they got comfortable, Jack waited for her to start talking…and waited, and waited…
"Talk to me, Summers."
"I don't know where to start," she admitted helplessly.
"Well, I'd say from the beginning, but I don't think we have all that much time, so why don't you tell me what caused the argument…it was an argument, wasn't it?"
"Yeah…" Buffy shifted uncomfortably. "I went to train Dawn, which went really well, I used a few of the moves you showed me, and she was…"
"Summers," Jack interrupted quietly.
"It was his eye," the small blonde said softly.
"He blames you for losing it?"
"No…he hates me because I didn't get it back."
Jack lifted an eyebrow at that.
After a few false starts, the Colonel was finally able to coax Buffy into telling the whole 'Final Battle' story from the beginning – and he got the story, in its full ugly technicolor glory.
Though he wasn't able to provide any answers or advice, he could see that just being able to talk about it was cathartic for her – especially since he made sure to appear non-judgmental…he had a feeling he really couldn't throw stones at anyone unless he knew everything from the beginning.
The flow of words finally slowed, and Jack watched as Buffy's eyes drooped before she drifted off into a doze. He let her sleep…God knows if she was going to get any rest once the battle started.
Quietly cleaning up their dishes, he went to go pack his things, since he was told that, once the fight began, it was unlikely anyone would be able to safely leave until it was over.
"Hey Ja…" Daniel began, but was cut off by O'Neill's gesture to be quiet.
Waving him and Teal'c to follow, Jack took them into the kitchen.
"Why are we being quiet?" Daniel whispered.
Jack pointed out towards the living room, where Buffy still slept.
"What's Buffy doing here?" the archaeologist gave him a confused look.
"Problems at home," he answered with a pointed look that said 'don't ask'.
"Is she OK?"
"Yeah…she just had a rough night with all the vibes she was getting from the demons in town. You guys packed?"
"Yes…the bags are out in the Hummer. Care to tell us what this is all about? Hammond just said to pack enough clothes for a couple of weeks and hightail it here."
"We're going to help protect the Watcher Council's shipments that are coming."
That piqued Daniels interest. "Oh? What kind of shipments?"
"Later, Daniel. I hope you packed coffee too, you're gonna need it."
A dismayed look crossed the younger man's face, causing Jack to chuckle softly.
"Don't worry, Danny-boy…there'll be plenty of coffee – it's gonna be the main staple for everyone for the next seven or eight days."
"Well, that sounds…ominous."
They were interrupted by the sound of the doorbell, which caused Jack to grimace.
"Should have left a note on the door. Just as well, we gotta leave soon," the Colonel said before calling out, "Summers! You've got 30 minutes to get ready."
"But I still have to do my nails," a sleepy whine answered.
"Unless they're like Lady Deathstrike's, don't bother," he replied with a chuckle as he headed towards the door.
"Now those would be wicked," Buffy mumbled as she shuffled into the kitchen. "Hey Daniel, Teal'c…is there any coffee left, Jack?"
"No, but I'm sure there will be plenty where we're going," was Jack's answer as he came back into the kitchen, followed by Carter. "You've got 28 minutes and 32 seconds left Summers, hop to it."
"I'm going, I'm going. Hey Sam."
"Hi Buffy," the older woman responded with a confused look as the rumpled Buffy shuffled past her. "Sir?"
"Problems at home, Carter…don't ask."
Carter nodded her head. "So…"
"Later, Carter. You guys are a little early."
"General Hammond just…"
"…told you to pack for a couple of weeks and come here. I guess he wanted me to be the one to give you the wonderful news," Jack sighed. Gesturing the others to follow, he moved into the living room and picked up a small stack of papers and handed them to Carter. "Just so there are no surprises, you need to know who we'll be working with."
The Major glanced through the list of names, her eyes getting wider and wider before she finally looked up at her CO. "Sir?"
"Colonel Dozhdalev assured me that they…all of them…are only here to help protect the Council's shipments, and will leave as soon as everything's secure – we'll be helping where we can, but General Hammond also wants us there to keep an eye on them, and make sure they leave when they say they're leaving."
"Just what the hell are they bringing in…sir?"
"You'll be briefed as soon as we get to the new Watcher's Council buildings, Carter."
O'Neill and his team chatted while they waited for Buffy to finish getting ready, which didn't take long.
"We need to swing by and pick up Dawn, Jack."
"She called your cell while you were snoozing, Summers…she's got a ride in."
Buffy gave him an uncertain look, but nodded her head.
"Let's go then…maybe we can get there early enough to grab the good beds," the small blonde replied as she dragged her suitcase to the door.
Carter looked at her CO in surprise. "Beds, sir?"
"Why do you think you were asked to pack for a couple of weeks, Carter? Once we get inside, we're not going to be able to leave until it's all over." When it looked like she was going to ask more questions, O'Neill cut her off, "Later, Carter."
Grabbing his own suitcase, Jack strode towards the door, leaving the others to follow at will.
They followed quickly, Carter locking the door behind her.
Piling into the Hummer, chosen because none of them personally owned it, it only took them 15 minutes to get to their location.
As soon as everyone indicated they had removed their bags, Jack tossed the keys to a young Asian man, who piled into the Hummer with three others and drove off.
Hefting their bags, the five made their way into one of the buildings which was humming with activity.
"Ms. Summers! It is good to see you…are you prepared for the coming battle?"
"Hey Yury. Yup, ready and willing to chop them into itty-bitty pieces," Buffy chirped as she clasped the Russian Colonel's hand and tilted her head up to accept his greeting of a kiss on each cheek. "Thanks for the tip on those Skaagen demons…Dawnie and I took care of them last night, so that's one less group of nasty little buggers that we have to worry about. Oh! Speaking of Dawnie…maybe you'll finally start calling me by my first name – we're gonna have some confusion as to which Summers girl you're calling if you don't."
Carter and O'Neill watched in surprise at the familiarity between Buffy Summers and the man who had a reputation for being unapproachable, not to mention rumors of being extremely ruthless.
"I take it the information we provided was of some use? They are…how do you say…ashes in the wind?"
"Yup…doused 'em, lit 'em up…fire pretty, s'mores good."
Dozhdalev chuckled before turning towards O'Neill.
"I am please you have also chosen to join us, Colonel O'Neill, and I see you have brought some friends with you."
O'Neill quickly made introductions.
"Major Carter, your reputation proceeds you…you are well thought of within the Russian scientific community."
"Thank you, sir."
Buffy interrupted before anything further could be said. "I'm gonna go snag me a premo pillow, Yury. Before you let these guys go to find their own…you should know, they're all packing."
The small blonde strode away, rolling her suitcase behind her.
"I am sorry, Colonel, I must ask that you disarm yourselves of any modern projectile weapons." Seeing that O'Neill was about to protest he held up a hand to stop him. "You and your team will come to no harm within these walls, and you will find that no one else is carrying guns or other military weapons. I believe Ms. Summers explained the reason to you some time ago, yes?"
"That agreement thing between the good guys and the bad guys?" Jack grimaced.
"That is correct. We will provide you with the acceptable weaponry you may use," Dozhdalev replied as he gestured to someone across the room.
O'Neill sighed, but nodded. "Fine, fine…disarm yourself guys. I take it we can hang on to the knives?"
"Isn't the military involvement here going to create some kind of problem, Colonel Dozhdalev? Buffy mentioned something about a price – that involving the military would cost more lives than they would save," Daniel asked curiously as he removed his own weapons.
"The demons and vampires that have joined together in this battle far outnumber our own, Dr. Jackson – if the Slayer was to fight alone, their victory would, without a doubt, be assured. But their numbers have become so large, they have tipped the scales to a degree in which our involvement is necessary to bring the balance back into equilibrium, or as close to it as possible. Though in no way have we been guaranteed a victory, we are now afforded a chance to succeed."
As they digested this information, a young man approached with a medium sized box and handed it to the Russian Colonel, who gestured for O'Neill and his team to place their weapons into the box. Once they were finished, he closed the box and handed it to Teal'c, which surprised all of them.
Seeing their expressions, Dozhdalev explained. "You are military, Colonel O'Neill, your first instinct will be to go for your gun…your disarming is only to remove that temptation, not to leave you weaponless. I trust that you will abide by our wishes, and leave your firearms within the box."
O'Neill gave him a curt nod.
Dozhdalev then had the young man show them to the sleeping quarters, with instructions to meet him in the main research room O'Neill had been to on his last visit.
Striding into the designated planning room, O'Neil and his team caught sight of Buffy chatting with the two newest SGC recruits, Miller and Templeton, Dozhdalev listening on with an expression of amusement.
Seeing them arrive, the small blonde hopped off the table, and gestured them over.
"Hey guys…Jack's on the up and up, but the rest of you are probably wondering about all the stuff going on around here, and if we're insane." Buffy waved them to sit at a nearby table.
"Well, you have to admit, the combination of personnel is an…odd one, Buffy," Carter said, still shaking her head over the list of names she had seen just a short time ago.
"Sam's right…just what are you bringing in that has military personnel from 25 different countries working together peacefully?"
With a small smile on her face, Buffy waited for just the right moment before saying, "The Library of Alexandria, Daniel."
The archaeologist had just begun to sit, but on hearing her words, missed the chair and fell to the floor with a 'thump'.
"Nice timing, Summers," Jack chuckled.
"Why, thank you, Jack…I do so pride myself on it," she smirked in reply.
By that time, Daniel had used the table to pull himself up to his knees, and he leaned an elbow heavily on the wooden surface. With a breathy voice, he said, "Excuse me…could you please repeat that."
Buffy laughed. "You heard me the first time, Daniel."
Daniel opened his mouth to comment, but Jack stopped him. "Sit down, Daniel. Colonel Dozhdalev will explain everything."
Scrambling into his seat, the archaeologist turned an eager face towards the Russian Colonel.
Dozhdalev kept things short, knowing that the explanations about the contents of the shipments were not as important as the battle plans, and how O'Neill's team would fit into those plans.
"So…you're saying that the Library of Alexandria was known by various names for thousands of years in the past?" Daniel asked with a hungry gleam in his eyes.
"Yes, many…though most of the names have been lost in time – at least, lost to the general public. Within the Council itself, it has become an amusing past-time to test each other on the knowledge about the many manifestations of the Library. Each manifestation is well documented."
Daniel stuttered out several names, and was answered with an amused nod by the Russian Colonel.
"You know your ancient libraries well, Dr. Jackson, but you must know that there are others even more ancient than those you named. While most of the original tablets no longer exist, their contents were transcribed many times over until magical practices advanced far enough to begin preserving them."
The archaeologist looked like he was about to begin drooling.
"Ooo…ooo…can I tell him, Yury? Please?" Buffy said as she bounced on the balls of her feet.
Chuckling, Dozhdalev nodded.
With an evil grin, Buffy turned towards Daniel. "When I told Yury that you were really into Egyptian stuff, he told me that the library contains all 42 books that make up the Hermetica…in the original papyrus form…in addition to the Emerald Tablets."
Daniel slouched in his chair with a whimper.
Dozhdalev gave a wicked smirk at O'Neill as he said, "We have many items that would be of interest to you, Dr. Jackson. You are most welcome to join…"
"Aaaah!" O'Neill interrupted. "Get your own linguist, Dozhdalev…Danny-boy is off-limits to your recruitment efforts."
"Jaaaack," Daniel whimpered.
"Awww…don't worry, Daniel. We plan on giving you a library card – unfortunately, Jack's already tied some strings to it," Buffy snickered.
"Some very short strings," Jack scowled.
There was a commotion at the door before Daniel could begin arguing with the Colonel.
"We're here and ready to par-tay!"
"Glad you could make it, Dawnie, but I think your outfit's missing a few bling-blings," Buffy grinned at the sight of her sister.
With a grin back, Dawn reached into her duffle bag and pulled out a long sword. "Is this bling-bling sharp enough for you?"
"Ooo…shiney, sharp, and deadly, just what we're lookin' for."
The two girls exchanged hugs, and Buffy caught sight of Andrew over her sister's shoulder.
"What's Andrew doing here?"
"Hi Buffy," he gave a nervous wave as he approached the two Summers women. "I thought you might need a gopher or, or maybe a cook, while you guys are taking care of the bad guys."
"I'm sure we can find something for you to do, Andrew…thanks for coming," Buffy replied with a warm smile.
"I hope I'm just as welcome…Buffy," a quiet male voice spoke out from the doorway.
Buffy recognized the voice of Xander, and turned to him with a hesitant smile.
"I wouldn't trust anyone else to watch my back as well as you do, Xander."
The tension left the dark-haired man's shoulders, and he returned her hesitant smile with one of his own as he approached the group.
"Why don't you guys introduce yourselves to everyone while I show Dawnie where to put her stuff."
The two younger men watched as the Summers sisters left, chatting up a storm.
O'Neill quietly stepped up next to the silent Xander and, without looking at him, tonelessly said, "Can she trust you to watch her back?"
Xander hesitated a moment before he quietly responded, "I don't know."
"Then you're on my team, kid," Jack replied in a firm voice.
The younger man nodded with an expression of relief.
Jack made a mental note to speak with his team about helping the young man stay on the straight and narrow, if they should see him falter.
"Buffy…Teal'c…" Dawn began hesitantly.
"Don't ask, Dawnie. Just trust me…he's on our side, OK?"
Dawn gave her sister a sideways glance, but at the closed expression, just said, "OK."
She'd been taught that not all monsters were evil, so she'd trust her sister on this one – after all, Buffy had been working with him for a couple of months. If Teal'c was a problem, Buffy would have taken care of it before now.
Once the newcomers had settled in, the planning session began full-force. O'Neill was impressed by the careful detail put into the simple but straightforward strategy, not to mention, the numerous contingencies should anything go wrong.
And while none of the military crew had anything to add, both Buffy and Xander made a few suggestions for other contingencies that deepened the respect of everyone there, and really brought home the fact that they had been the ones on the front lines for the past seven years.
All in all, they were as ready as they could ever be, and everyone was sent off to rest up for the long battle they knew would begin with the first shipment arriving at 8am the next morning.
Of course, those who were battle-hardened knew, very well, that all good plans were meant to be tested, even before they were supposed to begin, which is why everyone was up and alert as soon as the alarms rang at 2am and they were informed that the first shipment was 20 minutes away and coming in hot, with several others, spaced 30 minutes apart, right behind it.
"God, Buffy! There's so many, my skin's itching," Dawn shivered as she clutched her sword peering out into the darkness where she could vaguely see shadows moving and undulating in the distance.
"Hang in there, Dawn…once the fighting starts, you won't notice it as much," Buffy replied, scythe gripped firmly in one hand as she kept an eye on her own area just outside the main doors where several forklifts where waiting to unload the trucks. "Just don't forget to watch out for the trucks too…they're gonna be coming in fast and will probably be all over the road trying to avoid demon roadblocks."
"So, they're gonna be driving like you?"
"Funny…just see if I sign off on your driving-lessons request form," Buffy snorted, then stiffened as she heard a sound. "Here they come…my side, watch for the fishtail."
The two Summers girls got ready.
At the appearance of the truck 500 yards down the road, it was as if a wave of everyone's worst nightmare flowed thickly out of the shadows, especially to SG-1, who were watching, crossbows ready, from the third story window.
The truck sped past several demons, took out a few, losing their headlights in the process, but they'd been prepared for that, with off-road lamps mounted on the roof of the trailer. And, as they continued on, the demons chased them.
O'Neill felt a sickening twist in his gut at the sight, much like what he was sure everyone else was feeling, but he took a deep breath and kept his eye locked on the sight line of his crossbow, and waited for the monsters to come into range.
Daniel made a muffled exclamation.
"Steady, Daniel," Jack said quietly, never taking his eyes off the demons.
"Colonel…see the yellow ones with the horns on the shoulders? Hearts are on their right side. And the pale green ones with scales have theirs located in the middle, just below where the human sternum would end," Xander said in a calm voice, his own eye never wavering.
"Gone up against 'em before?"
"Yeah…and don't bother with the bluish-green ones that look like the creature from the black lagoon…our bolts won't even faze them, skin's too thick. Graham and Jay are familiar with them."
"How can they be taken out then?"
"Chop off their head, or a metal bolt into the brain, Graham's got the equipment set aside for them on the 2nd floor," Xander took a moment to call Graham on the radio, "Graham…black lagoon ones are yours. Out."
Graham's voice came back, "We're on it, Harris…metal bolts are ready to rip. Out."
"Any others you can point out?"
"Too many to say, a boat-load of new ones too…most of 'em can be taken out with a heart shot, and a lot of them have it in the same location as humans – if all else fails, shoot them in the head, through the eyes. Looks like we're up in 20 yards…10…5…happy hunting," Xander began to shoot.
As he yelled out 'fire at will' to his team, a fleeting admiration for Xander's ability to overcome his skewed depth perception raced through O'Neill's mind before he was caught up in taking out as many demons as he could.
Buffy jumped out of the way as the truck swung around and screeched to a halt with race-car driver precision, the back of the container lining up right in front of the main doors – considering the length of the truck, that was pretty impressive.
Knowing that Dawn was matching her on the other side of the truck, Buffy raced to the front and as far out as she could before meeting demons, trying to give the truck, and the people unloading it, as much space as possible. Ten people total followed both her and Dawn, and they spread out, swords flashing, to create an empty space surrounding the battered vehicle.
The people, both inside the truck and the building, worked quickly and smoothly, and in less than 5 minutes, the truck was emptied, and they had four more soldiers to add to their numbers.
A call of 'fall back' was given, and the truck took off with a screech of rubber, crushing a few demons as it shot straight forward, before the driver wrenched the wheel to the left and drove off in the opposite direction it had just come from.
One by one, the hand-to-hand combatants worked their way backwards until it was just Buffy and Dawn in front of the doors. Two more steps backwards, and they were safely behind the temporary magical barrier that was created for just that purpose.
The demons beat on the barrier for a few minutes, until they realized that, while they couldn't get in, the Slayers' weapons, and crossbow bolts could get out. They backed off and melted back into the darkness.
"Clean-up team, front and center," Dozhdalev barked out from the side.
Several men organized themselves behind Buffy and Dawn, and as soon as everyone was ready, the two Slayers led them out into the darkness.
While the Slayers kept watch for any possible attacks, the men took care of retrieving as many bolts as they could before setting the demon carcasses on fire with a toss of pellets specially prepared for this purpose – it took them less than 10 minutes to clear the road for the next truck.
The group jogged back to the building without incident.
"Return to your positions! Next shipment in 10!" Dozhdalev called out before turning to one of the soldiers who had arrived with the shipment. "What happened?"
"Big attack at the origin…several planes had to take off early or risk not being able to take off at all, sir. We tried to get a hold of you, but something was blocking our calls until we got closer to your location. The coven's working on it."
"Did we lose anything?"
"Just the use of one plane, sir…they tipped it over, but it hadn't been filled yet. The pilots received only minor injuries."
"General Kauffman directed the majority of the filled planes to fly into the back-up airport in Spain and stand-by. He'll be sending you the new itinerary within the hour, sir."
"Thank you Lieutenant, have your men check in with Colonel O'Neill on the third floor, then stand down until your scheduled rotation."
"Yes, sir," the young man nodded, then gestured his men to follow him.
Dozhdalev called out a 5 minute warning.
The next 5 shipment arrivals followed the same pattern…truck came, demons saw, attack, attack, kick butt, unload, truck leaves, clean up.
Unfortunately, their good fortune didn't hold up on lucky truck number seven.
The demons knew this was their last chance before sunrise, when the majority of them would be forced to find shelter from the sun, so they hit it hard, toppling it over on its side.
The truck's initial speed continued to push it forward for another metal-screeching 50 feet before it came to a halt 200 yards away from its destination – the demons eagerly began to try and claw their way through the metal with howls of glee.
Dozhdalev gave orders for one of the contingency plans.
The two Slayers immediately grabbed three wound lengths of rope with grappling hooks at one end, and ran towards the fallen truck, the ten men in their group quickly following. They were joined by another dozen men who shimmied down ropes from the second floor, and Teal'c from the third.
While the nearly two dozen men fought off the demons, the Slayers sheathed their weapons and, with the help of Teal'c, pushed the truck upright – but, unfortunately, it wouldn't start, though the driver was in good enough shape to steer.
Buffy tossed one of the wound ropes to Teal'c, and the three immediately hooked them up and began to pull with all their might. It took a moment for the truck to gain momentum, but they eventually got it going enough to hobble on its own for the last stretch.
While the truck continued going forward, the three warriors detached their hooks, and ran alongside the truck as they re-attached the grapples to the side of the storage container. When they reached the main doors, the driver turned the wheel, while Buffy, Dawn and Teal'c pulled with all their strength, and dragged the container into position.
Dropping the ropes, the three unsheathed their weapons and joined the fight while the truck was emptied.
Dawn was wearing out, and a demon got in a lucky shot, scraping a claw down the younger Slayer's sword arm, just seconds before the first rays of the sun peeked over the horizon.
Hearing her sister gasp in pain, Buffy quickly pushed her opponents back with a wide swing of her scythe, and spun around. Seeing the demon about to make mince-meat of her sister, she yelled out, "Dawn, duck!" and threw the scythe, point first, into the demon's chest as soon as her sister hit the floor.
Weaponless, Buffy turned back to her own opponents, and was relieved to see that most of them had run off at the appearance of the first rays of dawn. Quickly dispatching those that had remained, she turned back to see that Teal'c had quickly moved to help Dawn, who was fighting left-handed with the sword she had retrieved from the ground.
When Buffy moved to join them, picking up the scythe on the way, it didn't take them long to take care of the last lingering demons.
"How's the arm, Dawn?" Buffy asked in concern.
"I'm fine…it's just a scratch."
"Scratches don't make you drop your sword, Dawnie…let me see it."
Dawn reluctantly showed her sister the long claw mark.
"You're off the roster, Dawn. Go get that bandaged, and get some sleep," Buffy said firmly.
"I'm fine! Just let me get it wrapped up and I can keep going."
"It's too deep, you need to get it stitched in places."
"Dawn!" Buffy exclaimed firmly, cutting off whatever protest she was going to make. Softening her tone, the small blonde continued, "It's morning…if you weren't so tired, you'd notice that the demon vibes are further away…meaning, a lot of them have headed out, so things are gonna slow down. We're gonna need you in top shape this evening when they start hitting us hard again, and sleep is the best medicine for the Slayer healing to do its job."
Dawn hesitated a moment.
"You've got to learn your limits, and you're at yours right now. Don't make me make it an order, Dawnie."
"OK, OK…but what about you?"
"I'm good. I got some extra sleep in yesterday afternoon. Teal'c can help me out for the next few runs, and if things are slow, we'll pull in the alternates and get some rest ourselves. You up for it, Teal'c?"
"I am prepared BuffySummers," Teal'c replied with a slight bow.
Buffy shooed off the younger Summers.
"Go…get yourself fixed up, eat something, then get some sleep."
Dawn nodded and headed inside.
Turning back to Teal'c, she said, "Come on, let's get this puppy outta here."
With the help of several men, they moved the disabled truck to a side street, and returned to the Council buildings to prepare for the next shipment.
They had a 30 minute reprieve before the next truck was scheduled to arrive, so Teal'c and Buffy rested just inside the main doors.
Dozhdalev approached them, and crouched down next to Buffy.
"How many did we lose?" she asked softly.
"Three men, and one was gravely injured," he replied just as softly.
The small blonde sighed. "That's three too many."
"They will be buried with the greatest of honor, Ms. Summers, and their family will be proud of their involvement in such an honorable endeavor."
"I'd rather save their pride, and return their children to them alive and well."
"You know as well as I that this battle will not be without its losses…we can only hope to keep those losses to a minimum."
Buffy nodded, heart heavy.
Seeing her acceptance, though reluctant, Dozhdalev changed the subject. "Will the younger Summers be healed enough to continue?"
"Yeah…she'll need about 8 hours of good sleep, so if you can keep everyone from disturbing her…"
"I will pass the order to leave her undisturbed unless absolutely necessary. What of you?"
"I'm good for a couple of hours. We'll take the next few shipments, and if things are slow, we'll rotate out."
"That is good," Dozhdalev replied as he stood. Looking down at the small woman, he smiled warmly. "Tales of your skills pale in comparison to seeing them with my own eyes, Ms. Summers…it is an honor to fight at your side."
With a small bow, the Russian Colonel returned to his duties, leaving a blushing Slayer in his wake.
"He speaks truthfully, BuffySummers…it is an honor to fight with you."
The small blonde only blushed further.
Buffy's prediction was right, and the next few truckloads came and went with very little incident, so Buffy and Teal'c rotated out, Buffy to sleep, and Teal'c to meditate.
After grabbing something to eat, Buffy made her way to the sleeping quarters, but chose to avoid the bed she had staked out. She was on call, and didn't want anything to disturb Dawn if she was needed.
Seeking out SG-1 and Xander, she found them already ensconced in their own pallets, fast asleep.
Moving quietly, she laid her weapon within easy reach, and began to remove her shoes.
"How's Dawn?" the quiet voice of the Colonel asked from the bed next to the one she chose.
"She'll be good as new in a few hours."
"Glad to hear it."
Buffy paused in her movements before quietly asking, "How's Xander doing?"
"He's good. I've been keeping an eye on him – he's staying on track."
"He's quite the well of information…we might not have done as much damage if it wasn't for him."
The small blonde cracked a small smile as she resumed her actions. "A lot of people underestimate him…he's a lot smarter than anyone gives him credit for, me included."
The Colonel fell silent for a moment before he finally said, "He's gonna be OK, Summers."
"I know," Buffy replied softly. She swung her legs onto the bed and lay back. "Thanks for keeping the baddies off our back, Jack."
"You're gonna owe us a lot of cake after this, Summers…a lot."
She chuckled, and closed her eyes…it didn't take her long to drift off to sleep.
They awoke to a surprise in the form of a tiny lab-coat-ensconced Doctor Fraiser, sent to them by a concerned General Hammond, who felt that, after receiving a status report from the Colonel, they could use some medical assistance.
O'Neill immediately began to gripe and complain about Fraiser stalking him with her large needles and rabid bedside manner, but everyone could see that he welcomed her skills, especially after the losses they had suffered earlier, and knowing that there were going to be many more over the next few days.
Fraiser was immediately put to work, re-examining the injured soldiers, and patching up hand-to-hand fighters. While there were dozens of military personnel with decent medical skills, there was only one full-time doctor on hand, who was extremely relieved to have an extra doctor onsite.
And over the next few days, the SGC CMO wanted to instinctively protest letting injured soldiers continue fighting in any capacity they could, but after seeing the horrors they were up against, swallowed her objections and let them be placed in useful positions, but ones that would, hopefully, not aggravate their injuries.
Though Dr. Fraiser never got used to feeding purple goo, or injecting fluorescent-colored liquid into some of the soldiers, even she had to admit the remedies worked wonders…unfortunately, other than taking care of demon poison, the small doctor was disappointed to find out that the antidotes served no other medicinal purposes.
All in all, it was a very surreal experience for Dr. Fraiser, the Stargate program notwithstanding.
And so it went for the next few days. The humans both gained and lost more people, but each shipment made it safely behind the walls of the new Council buildings, though the side-street began to look like a junkyard, several other trucks having been a casualty of the growing ferocity from the demons, who knew their opportunity was drawing to a close.
O'Neill looked around at the men and women under his charge, and could see the weariness within each of them, even though they were rotating personnel in and out of the hot spots.
If things had stayed the way they did for the first two days, it wouldn't have been so bad, but more demons arrived each day, many of which could brave the sun, and the daytime attacks increased.
They were being pushed to their limits, especially the Slayers, who began to receive more and more injuries during each battle due to fatigue, forcing them to start rotating Teal'c into the front lines, in order to get some much needed rest, though they were usually limited to only a couple of hours before some emergency occurred.
It was the wee hours of the morning, but people were still moving quietly about as they prepared for the next arrival which, fortunately, wouldn't be arriving for another hour, giving them a much needed breather.
O'Neill saw the young kid, Andrew, making his way around the room carrying a large tray in his hands. Stopping at each person, the blonde quickly handed out steaming mugs of soup, energy bars, and cups of coffee, along with a few words that either made the men smile or laugh.
Eventually, Andrew made it to O'Neill's position.
"Hi Colonel O'Neill! Soups on…Colonel Dozhdalev's orders, so grab a cup, we can't have you expiring from hunger."
Taking one of each item, he began to pass them down to Daniel, Sam, and Xander, before taking some for himself with a word of thanks.
"We just got word from England…the last plane left 4 hours ago, and should make it here in plenty of time to meet the midnight deadline," Andrew stated cheerfully as he set his tray down on the floor, O'Neill's group being the last in the room to be served.
"For the spell, Colonel sir."
"Xander? What's he talking about?"
"The last plane's carrying several members from the coven in Devon, remember? They have to place the protection spell after everything's inside."
"Oh, yeah…the permanent magical barrier thing, right?"
"Yeah," the younger man nodded before turning towards Andrew. "Any word on Giles and the others?"
Andrew nodded his head happily. "They made it out on the plane with the coven. Faith and Mr. Giles are fine, but Robin broke his leg."
Xander winced at that. "He's probably not too happy about that."
"Oh! And they warned us that they're being followed by flying demons…and something big that they haven't been able to identify yet."
"Awww, man! Figures were gonna get hit by the flying monkeys from Oz as the finale…" Xander grumbled.
"Did they say how many?" O'Neill asked as he chuckled at Xander's comment.
"About a dozen, but Giles said they can be taken out with a crossbow – but it's the big thing that they're worried about. It hasn't made an appearance yet, so they haven't been able to identify it, but apparently it's using the coven's magic as a beacon, which they're using to protect the plane from the flyers."
"Are they going to be up to the spell when they get here? It's a long flight," Xander asked in a concerned tone.
"They have twice the number of people they need…just in case," Andrew responded with a frown. Turning to O'Neill, he said, "Colonel Dozhdalev wants you to join him after the next shipment, to go over the final plan again, Colonel sir."
"Understood," O'Neill responded before giving the young man a small smile. "You're doing a great job here, Andrew."
Andrew blushed, his hands fluttering before he clasped them in his lap. "I wish I could help out more, but I'm not much of a fighter…I honestly don't know why Buffy asked me to come to Colorado with them…"
"Don't sell yourself short, kid – you don't have to be a fighter to lend a hand. Summers told me how you helped her out in the last battle in Sunnydale."
"Me? But I didn't really do anything…" Andrew's hands fluttered again.
"You kept her from leaving," O'Neill interrupted. He didn't look in Xander's direction, but knew the younger man was listening intently, and used the opportunity to get a few points across. "When she left her house, Summers was going to leave Sunnydale, because she didn't think there was anything left for her there."
"And she stayed because of me? Why?" Andrew asked with a confused look.
"Because you said you believed in her…and that's all Summers needed, just one person who still believed in her, so she stayed."
"I-I didn't want her to think that no one cared, especially after everyone yelled at her…um," Andrew trailed off in embarrassment when he saw Xander duck his head.
Having gotten his point across, and much more, thanks to Andrew, the Colonel steered the conversation back to the insecure man.
"I watched you talk with the men, Andrew – you've got a gift for cheering people up, even when things are tough, so don't think you haven't done your fair share around here."
"Thanks, Colonel sir," Andrew replied, blushing. He stood and picked up his emptied tray. "I need to go feed everyone on the second floor, so I'll just…um…yeah…"
With that, the young man scurried out of the room.
Sam and Daniel kept quiet, having figured out what Buffy's 'problems at home' was, and continued to pretend their attention was directed elsewhere.
"Have I screwed up beyond repair?" Xander asked softly.
Colonel O'Neill quietly sipped at his cooling coffee before answering, "Not yet, Harris…but I don't know how much more she can take."
Xander was silent for a moment before he finally said, "After this is finished, I'm gonna ask Giles to help me…I'm gonna get over it, I promise."
"See that you do, Harris…you mean a lot to her," O'Neill replied, and left it at that.
The final shipment arrived, mid-afternoon, on the eighth day of battle, but the coven was still about 5 hours out, giving the tired group some time to recuperate and prepare.
Dozhdalev called for a meeting, leaving a skeleton-crew guarding the main entrance and the windows, and everyone else filling the main research room.
Tired faces were reflected back at him, but he could see the pride the soldiers felt for a job well done, yet it was tinged with sadness for those who had fallen.
"You have all done well, very well. The Library has survived its journey, and is now safely behind these walls – it is because of you that we have succeeded in our mission thus far. Be proud, your names will forever be honored in the annals of the Council…hold your heads up high in the knowledge that you were part of a noble battle, fighting at the side of the Slayers."
The soldiers cheered loudly until Dozhdalev held up a hand for silence.
"The coven will be here within 5 hours, and the demons and vampires will hit us harder than ever upon their arrival – all those not scheduled to be at post, eat and rest well."
The Russian Colonel dismissed everyone, leaving him with only the other commanders, the two Slayers, Xander, and O'Neill's people.
"The hardest is yet to come, my friends…the evils outside know that those who come will lock the library away from their grasp forever. Be wary...be very wary."
Dozhdalev dismissed them to seek out food and rest.
Buffy and Dawn stood in their normal position, only this time they were joined by Teal'c and three times the number of soldiers than before. Everyone knew this skirmish was going to be bad.
The older Slayer even had her fanny-pack full of goodies strapped around her waist…she didn't want to take the chance that the big thing that was following the coven couldn't be taken out by her scythe alone.
In the distance, they heard the sound of a vehicle approaching, followed by the ferocious screams of way too many demons.
Turning to her sister, she said, "Remember rule number one, Dawnie."
"Don't die," Dawn replied with a firm nod. "Let's kick some butt, Buffy."
And then it happened…the big thing appeared in the middle of the road, slamming a large hammy fist into the engine of the approaching bus, causing the rear of the vehicle to jump in the air a couple of feet before crashing back down.
It was one of the meanest looking demons that Buffy had ever seen…deep red in color, it towered over the bus by a good eight feet or more, two horns protruding from its forehead, and it walked on cloven feet. To many watching, they wondered if it was the devil himself.
"Let's go!" the small blonde exclaimed, taking off in the direction of the bus. "You know what to do, Dawn."
"Keep a clear path…now go, kick the Satan-wanna-be's ass."
From a hundred yards away, the two Slayers saw someone crash through one of the side windows of the bus, sword swinging. Faith had arrived, and was doing what she did best…killing the baddies.
After her exit from the bus, a glow surrounded the vehicle, keeping the demons from tearing into it. The red demon pounded on the barrier over and over, causing it to fluctuate wildly.
Buffy knew the coven couldn't afford to hold the barrier too long, without compromising the magical strength they needed for the protection spell, so she doubled her efforts to reach them.
"Faith!" the blonde-haired Slayer called out.
"B! How's it hangin'?"
"Not too bad! Head this way! We gotta take out the big red baddie!"
"I'm there!" Cutting her way through the mass of demons, she made it to their side. "What's the plan."
Pulling the Troll Hammer from her pack, Buffy tossed the scythe to the dark-haired Slayer. "The head's yours, I'm goin' for the knees, 'cuz, you know what they say…the bigger they are…" she took off towards the demon, using the magical properties of the hammer to clear a path by sending many a demon flying.
"The harder they fall!" Faith yelled out in reply, taking Buffy's place in the line. "Thanks for giving me the messy job, B!"
She could hear Buffy's laughter in response.
The smaller Slayer finally made it to the large clearing where the red-colored demon still pounded on the magical barrier…the other demons seemed to be giving it a wide birth, which worried her a bit, but she still marched forward with a shout.
"Hey, ugly!" Picking up a broken piece of concrete, she threw it at the demon's head, causing it to turn around with a roar. "Yeah, I'm talking to you. Didn't anyone ever tell you that it's not polite to force yourself where you're not wanted?"
The demon began to stomp in her direction.
"And the red? So not your color…ever think of dying yourself green? You'd blend into the trees better…never mind, you're taller than a tree…blending in is not an option."
Buffy took off at a dead run, ducking under the swooping limbs of the demon as it attempted to grab her. She swung the Troll Hammer into its left knee with a loud 'crunch'. It roared in pain and wobbled as it tried to shift its weight onto its other leg – Buffy took that knee out too, ducking out of the way as the red demon began to topple.
"Timber!" the small blonde yelled, When it hit the ground, she swung the hammer into the demon's lower back, breaking its spine so it couldn't get up, then started to clear a path around the bus. Making it to the back, she saw a familiar face peering through the emergency door. "Hey Giles! Welcome to the party! I'd offer you tea, but all we've got is coffee."
"Buffy, it's good to see you well!"
"You too, Giles. Any special requests? Or do you just need a path cleared?" Buffy continued to swing the hammer, keeping the back of the bus demon and vampire free.
"At least two men to carry something, in addition to that cleared path would be wonderful, Buffy."
"You got it!" Buffy yelled out to the newly arrived Slayer. "Faith! Are you done with Beetlejuice?"
"If you're asking about the big red demon who looks like Beelzebub, then yeah…whatcha need?" Faith yelled back.
"You, the big black dude named Teal'c, two soldiers to carry, and ten to keep a cleared path on the side!"
"Oooo…private party. Dawn! Pick 'em then close the gap!"
"I'm on it!"
Five minutes later, the group arrived, ten of the soldiers keeping a five foot wide path clear along side the bus.
"What now, Giles?"
"We need some room to unload."
"You got it…come on Faith, time to do the linebacker move. Teal'c push 'em out on three. One, two…thr…Faith, you're such a cheater!"
Faith just laughed as she continued to use the length of the scythe to shove the demons back. "Heave! Heave! Come on slow-pokes! You snooze, you die!"
Teal'c and Buffy pushed, the blonde Slayer with her hammer, Teal'c with the bumper of the bus, which had been torn off…each of them ducking the claws that reached out to them as they backed up a couple of steps before running forward and shoving again.
"Hurry up, Giles…we can't hold it long."
The British man and the two soldiers were already helping the numerous women and a few men that spilled out of the back end of the bus. Thankfully, they had their own protection as they grouped in clusters of four and put up protective barriers before scurrying down the cleared path.
"Giles, hurry up!"
The three warriors had cleared a good ten foot wide swath, but struggled to hold it. Faith pulled out her sword again, tossing the scythe back to Buffy, who quickly put the hammer back in her pack, and continued cutting down anything that moved near her.
"The coven is almost inside, Buffy! Prepare yourselves…as soon as we remove the pedestal from the bus's wards, the demons are going to go into a frenzy."
"Got it! Teal'c on Giles' mark, take point…Faith, you're on the outside…when you get to each soldier, pull him in…I want another row between us and the carriers until there's at least two on each side. When you get to the front of the bus have Dawnie take opposite…Giles and I will be rear sweep. Ready guys?"
At their affirmative, Buffy gave Giles the go ahead.
Not five seconds later, the three fighters knew the item had been removed, as the demons froze for a moment before howling in fury and pressing forward with more ferocity than before.
Teal'c broke away and took his place, followed by Faith a moment later, leaving Buffy to hold back the tide until Giles joined her, sword flashing furiously.
Movement was slow going, but they were making progress towards the front of the bus…at least until the flyers made an appearance.
"Dammit! No, no, no…this is not good!"
Xander jumped up from his position and began to grab the crossbow bolts from his bin, stuffing as many of them into two sheaths as he could, then tucked an axe into his belt.
"What are you doing, Harris! Get back into position!" O'Neill barked out.
"They're sitting ducks Colonel! The demons are pushing them so hard that they can't watch out for the flyers…they need crossbow support, and we're too far away."
O'Neill looked out at the group in the distance and came to a quick decision.
"Go, but I want two others with you," the Colonel firmly said before getting on the radio. "Miller, Templeton – stock up on bolts and meet Harris at the main doors…you're going out to supply air support."
"Yes, sir!" the call came back on the radio.
"Harris…watch your back," the older man said gruffly as he gave him permission to leave.
"Scooby rule number one, Colonel…don't die," was Xander's reply as he gave O'Neill a half-smile and a salute before taking off.
"Good rule to have," the Colonel said to himself as he turned back to his window.
"Air support, sir?" Carter asked with a hint of amusement in her voice as she continued to take shot after shot.
"Well…what else are you gonna call it?"
He watched as the three young men ran out and expertly weaved their way through the fighting soldiers.
Xander led them to where the group had been forced to a halt, the three Slayers, Giles, and Teal'c holding the demons back from the rest, but not being able to do anything about the flyers, except duck.
"Yeah! We're here to watch the skies…do what you need to do, and don't worry about the flyers, we'll handle it!"
The group began their slow progress forward again while Xander, Graham, and Jay watched the skies in rotation…one would shoot, one would watch out for any demons that broke the line, while the third reloaded.
They kept the skies clear, and managed to take out about eight of the dozen or so flying demons in the process.
"Buffy!" Dawn choked out as two men on the line fell, she took a step forward to help, but was halted by her sister's strained, but firm, voice.
"Keep your position, Dawnie."
"Keep your position! That's an order!"
Dawn's eyes widened at the ferocity of the command, but she kept her place.
More men fell, too many…but they got the job done.
When the group got to within 30 feet of the main door, several more soldiers spilled out to help push the demons back, giving the two soldiers carrying the pedestal a clear shot to the doors. They were followed by the three crossbow wielders, who walked backwards as they watched the skies.
One by one, the soldiers broke off and stepped through the main doors until it was just the three Slayers fighting. It was an amazing sight to the soldiers who watched…one they knew they weren't likely to see again…and the image of the three mystical warriors fighting side-by-side, each with a different style, but no less deadlier than the others, would forever be burned into their memory.
Hearing his name, the British man's head popped up from where he had been talking quietly with one of the women from the coven near the pedestal. Seeing his Slayer bearing down on him with a relieved look, he smiled in pleasure at seeing her all in one piece, though she was sporting a cut on the side of her forehead, not to mention the blood from barely healed claw-marks seeping through various places on her shirt.
The small blonde tossed her scythe to Faith just before she was engulfed by her Watcher's arms. Buffy returned his hug fiercely.
"Giles!" Dawn yelled. Handing her sword to Xander, she threw herself at the two hugging adults, and was immediately pulled into the embrace.
Shrugging his shoulders, Xander handed Dawn's sword and his crossbow to a nearby soldier and joined the small group hug.
Giles just opened his arms wider to include all of them, and thanked God they were all alive.
"I was so worried about you all," the older man said in a choked voice.
"We were worried about you too, Giles," Xander responded as he stepped back, eye bright with moisture.
"Yeah, I was afraid something would happen since we weren't there to watch your back – I'm glad to see that Faith kept you in one piece…and conscious – you did stay conscious, right?" Buffy babbled, reluctant to let her Watcher go.
"Buffy! I don't get bludgeoned all the time," Giles replied, affronted.
"No…just two times out of three," Buffy replied cheekily.
Dawn and Xander snickered.
"So, what's with the podium of power that made all the baddies go gaga?" Buffy asked as she finally stepped back from her Watcher. "That thing is just oozing with the mojo."
"It's the cornerstone to the protection spell – or should I say, the center of it – and will create the barrier once the coven re-activates it. It's very old, and has its own shielding properties, which is why it wasn't destroyed in the explosion – basically, it's what kept the demons from destroying the library when it was buried in all the rubble. We'll be placing it in the courtyard between the buildings, which is why the alleys were permanently barricaded."
"So that's why the demons went nuts," a male voice replied from behind the British man.
Giles turned to see a grey-haired man approach, along with three others.
"Colonel O'Neill! I'm surprised to see you here," he exclaimed, holding out a hand in greeting, and giving a polite nod to the others.
"With all the international military muckity-mucks running about, my superior insisted we be here," O'Neill replied, shaking his hand. Seeing the other man's alarmed look, he added, "Only those who know about Summers, knows about what's going on here. You have a lot of questionable characters running around here, without the U.S. military knowing, and my superior wanted to make sure this is all they are here for."
"Understandable," Giles responded sheepishly.
"But, what I really want to know is…does this count as an apocalypse?"
"I would call it more of a pre-emptive strike against possible apocalypses, Colonel O'Neill," another male voice jumped in to their conversation.
O'Neill grimaced, instantly recognizing the German voice.
"Eisen," he said flatly, as he turned to see one of his old enemies approach, along with a stocky man he recognized as General Kaufmann.
"The Eisen? The one who shot you?" Buffy smirked before turning a grin towards the middle-aged man. "Gimme the goods, in full detail, with charts, graphs, and we'll be the bestest of buds in no time."
The sandy-haired man chuckled as he gave her a small bow. "It would be my pleasure, Ms. Summers, especially as I see it would annoy Colonel O'Neill for me to do so."
O'Neill just scowled before turning to the other man.
"And just how is it that a three-star Russian General was able to fly into the U.S. undetected, Kaufmann?"
"Private jet, false papers, misplaced documents…you know how it is, Colonel," the General gave him a small smile before giving him a serious look, "I am honored that you and General Hammond have given us your trust in this issue."
"To be honest, we were both quite a bit skeptical…but after the past eight days?...I think I'm going to have a few new nightmares to add to my collection," O'Neill responded with a disbelieving shake of his head.
"As will we all, O'Neill, as will we all."
The group stood there in silence for a moment, each of them with a hint of the horrors they had seen over the past few days reflecting in their eyes.
"Well, I hate to be the one to break this solemn moment, but Dawnie and I should probably rest up in the short time we have before the big finale," Buffy said as she retrieved her scythe from Faith, who had quietly stood a little apart from the group. Turning to O'Neill, she smirked, "You should too, Gramps. You might, like, have a fatal heart attack or something…I don't want to have to find someone new to argue with."
With that, she grabbed her grinning sister and flounced out of the room, leaving O'Neill to rub his forehead in aggravation as the others laughed.
Turning to Giles he growled, "Was she this bad for you too?"
"I would have to go with a resounding 'yes' on that," Giles chuckled. "But you should feel honored, Colonel O'Neill. Buffy usually only tries to annoy those she feels a strong connection to – it took me some time to actually understand what her words meant."
"Well, I only got 'you're old' from that comment," O'Neill scowled.
Giving the other man a faint smile, the Watcher just said, "In Buffy-speak, her words meant 'Take care of yourself – I don't want you to die, because I'd miss you.'"
Giles walked away to help set up the pedestal in preparation for the coming spell, Xander and Faith followed, leaving a startled Colonel in his wake.
"I believe this is one time you wouldn't mind me saying 'I told you so', Jack," Daniel said with a grin.
Before O'Neill could reply Colonel Dozhdalev approached the group.
"Colonel Eisen, General Kaufmann…welcome my friends," the Russian Colonel said warmly as he shook hands with the two German officers.
"Hey, wait a minute…aren't you guys still bickering over some 15 year old conflict or something?" O'Neill glanced between the men with a look of confusion.
"As I said before, we fight for a common purpose here, Colonel O'Neill…in this war, there are no enemies among the human race," Dozhdalev explained quietly. "We cannot afford to let petty differences create obstacles that would give an advantage to the demons."
"You have been here since the beginning of this battle, O'Neill…would you not agree that your issues with me pale in comparison to what you have witnessed and fought against?" Eisen asked solemnly.
"You had to appeal to my sense of judgment, didn't you," O'Neill ruefully shook his head as he held out a hand to the German Colonel. "I suppose I can ignore the fact that you shot me for another day or so."
Chuckling, Eisen clasped his hand and shook it as he replied, "And I believe I will be able to ignore the reason for shooting you for the same period of time."
O'Neill just smirked.
"Excuse me, I was wondering something," Daniel interrupted as he stepped up next to O'Neill. Giving polite nods to the newly-arrived officers, he blurted out, "You may have done some fancy paperwork juggling, but eventually the U.S. government is going to find out about all the international people here. How do you plan on keeping them from discovering what you do here?"
Dozhdalev gave him a speculative look. "Not many people are wise enough to consider that factor, Dr. Jackson…are you sure you do not wish to join us?"
"Ahhhh! Get your own geek, Colonel, and leave mine alone," Jack pointed a finger at the Russian man.
Smirking in response, Dozhdalev answered Daniel's question. "For many centuries, the Council has maintained first Diplomatic status, then extraterritorial status and diplomatic immunity, among the majority of countries, the U.S. included. We are currently protected by the same laws as an embassy, and many more as an international organization represented by multiple countries."
"Including the U.S.?" O'Neill asked in a challenging tone.
"I must admit that our American representatives are few in number," the Russian Colonel replied slowly. "We have had difficulty in finding those who are trustworthy enough not to…misuse the resources available as a Council member."
Dozhdalev paused to give Colonel O'Neill a speculative look as he continued.
"Though, for reasons unknown to us, you and your team have been gifted – by the powers that guide our warriors – with the knowledge of our purpose…perhaps your involvement is a sign that it is time for the Americans to take their place in this battle. It would do well for the Slayers to have highly placed…protectors here, should something untoward occur."
O'Neill looked at him sharply. "I hope you're not asking what I think you're asking."
"We only ask for that which you are willing to give, Colonel O'Neill…nothing more."
Giving him another sharp look, O'Neill only said, "When everything is over, we'll…talk."
"As you wish," Dozhdalev nodded his head before addressing the two German officers. "Gentlemen, the final stage has been modified slightly…come, I would have your thoughts on them."
The Russian Colonel gestured the men to follow him, and the three strode off, leaving O'Neill and his team behind.
"Sir? What did he mean by 'protectors'?" Carter asked with a suspicious look on her face.
O'Neill hesitated a moment, debating the issue of whether or not it would be a good idea to reveal the particulars of his and Dozhdalev's conversation to a fellow officer. If he decided to take him up on the offer, in some capacity, it could create problems, especially if Carter didn't agree with the methods the Russian officer had only hinted at.
But, since it seemed that Carter had some idea of the meaning behind Dozhdalev's cryptic words, he'd be better off nipping things in the bud – Carter was an exemplary officer, but sometimes she could be too exemplary…and this was one of those occasions where their superior officers really didn't need to know everything.
"Sir?" The suspicious look had deepened on Carter's face.
"This goes no further, Carter. I'm not going to order you – I'm just…asking," O'Neill began slowly. At her sharp nod, he continued, "Apparently, we're not the first people outside their group to find out about Slayers. Even though the Watcher's Council squeezed out anyone not of British decent, the others kept an eye out for the girls. Dozhdalev claims that he, and many others, only joined the military in order to protect the Slayers from people who would use them for their own purpose."
"And how far does this…protection extend, sir?" the tall blonde woman asked, looking a little uneasy.
He gave her a knowing look as he replied, "'Many a powerful man has fallen by our hands to keep the Slayer out of theirs'…at least that's what Dozhdalev claims."
"Assassination! And he's asking you to become one of these…protectors!" Carter blanched.
O'Neill nodded sharply.
"Are you going to do it, Jack?" Daniel asked, highly disturbed.
Running a hand through his hair, he let out a deep breath. "I don't know, Daniel. Dozhdalev may only be asking for what I'd be willing to give, but even if I only phone in any problems, I'd be just as responsible for that person's death as if I pulled the trigger myself…I don't know if I can go back there again."
While Daniel and Carter let that sink in, a confused look crossed Teal'c's face.
"I do not understand this reluctance, O'Neill…would it not be better to take action against those who would wish to examine BuffySummers? I have noticed that the Tauri do not accept defeat easily – I would not wish harm to befall such a great warrior, should those Tauri who study your sciences seek information, yet would refuse what answers their eyes would see."
"I know, T…and that's the dilemma," the Colonel replied tiredly as he rubbed a knot at the back of his neck. "I have a feeling the request is extended to you guys too, especially you, Carter. I can't tell you what to do, it's your decision – and you don't need to tell me what it will be. Understood?"
Carter and Daniel gave hesitant nods, while Teal'c bowed his head respectfully.
"Put it out of your mind for now, and get some food and rest…and that's an order," O'Neill said sharply before he headed off to the planning room.
Daniel let out a heavy breath as he watched his CO stride away. "Damn. What a choice…let Buffy be experimented on until she's killed, or become a killer ourselves."
Carter could only nod in agreement.
"I see no difficulty in this decision. A warrior of BuffySummers' skills should fall in battle, not under the knife of a chirurgeon. I have been witness to many experimentations done by scientists under the rule of the Goa'uld…should the Tauri have the same disregard for life as they in seeking their answers, I will not let it happen should it be in my power to stop," Teal'c gave them a respectful bow before leaving to meditate in the short time left.
Daniel and Carter could only shift uneasily as they pondered their own choice.
"Ms. Summers, if I might have a word?" Dozhdalev held out an arm to direct the small woman to a more private area.
"Sure, Yury…what's up?" Buffy asked as she walked along side the Russian officer to a short distance away.
"I would ask a favor of you, if I may. The soldiers are ready to fight this last battle, but while their strength of arm is ready, I am afraid their spirits are flagging – this conflict has been difficult, and the number of fallen has sapped their will. Would you speak to them…give them words to bolster their courage?"
"I don't know, Yury…I'm not very good at public speaking, I'm more of an action girl," the small blonde shifted uncomfortably.
"Be that as it may, a few words from you would do more good than anything else," Dozhdalev said kindly. He held up a hand to hold off the protests he could see coming. "Many here are proud to be a part of this fight…to fight along side the Slayer of whom they have heard the most wondrous tales about. No matter how few you may say, your words will carry much weight."
Buffy sighed, knowing the older man was right. Over the course of the past few days, even she couldn't ignore the looks of awe on the faces of the soldiers when they looked at her, no matter how much it made her uncomfortable.
"All right, all right…I'll see what I can come up with, just give me a minute."
"Of course, and thank you…Buffy," Dozhdalev replied with a warm smile as he squeezed her shoulder.
She gave him a wane smile as he left.
Buffy took a moment to wrack her brains for something to say, but couldn't think of anything that wouldn't sound lame – she didn't think a peppy 'Go Team' was going to cut it.
'Guess I'll just have to wing it, as usual,' she thought, as she made her way to where Dozhdalev was standing.
As she approached him, she couldn't help but notice the tired faces of the near two hundred soldiers who sat waiting…nor could she avoid seeing how they sat up straighter once they caught sight of her.
Dozhdalev was right…they needed this.
Turning to face them, she just looked around…meeting the gazes of many of them as they waited quietly for her to speak…seeing the cuts and claw-marks that had left no one unscathed…seeing the thick bandages on those who had fought alongside her, and received injuries as their only reward.
She was humbled.
Swallowing past a lump in her throat, Buffy opened her mouth to speak.
"For the longest time, I was told that Slayers fought alone…that it was our duty, and our duty alone, to fight the vampires and demons until we fell and another was chosen to take up the mantle. While my Watcher never enforced this rule, and my friends ignored it, I still couldn't help but feel alone most of the time…even though they've stayed by my side since the beginning, I felt alone because I knew they could leave it all behind if they wanted to, while I didn't have that option. The only way I can leave it all behind is if I die…and sometimes not even then."
Buffy saw many people drop their gazes, pained expressions on their faces as they realized the significance of her words.
The small blonde shook her head as she continued speaking.
"But I look out at all of you, and I see faces from all corners of the world – people who have put aside past wrongs, people who have let go of bad feelings towards those whose countries continue to fight with theirs, people who have given up their livelihood…and their lives…to fight the darkness, to fight for me, to fight with me, to fight because of me…and I can't feel alone anymore," Buffy lifted her head, looking out at the faces turned towards her. "Many of you look at me and see a hero, a champion, but I'm just a girl who's been given a destiny…a destiny that I never wanted, but one that I finally accepted a few years ago. I may have been given a great strength to fight evil, and use it to do what I'm destined to do, but having great strength doesn't make someone a champion or a hero. I'm no hero – you are."
There were several startled looks at that statement, and Buffy just smiled.
"Yes, you. And you want to know why? Because you chose this – you learned of the evil that walks this earth, and you chose to fight it because you believed it was the right thing to do, just like my friends and Watcher. You don't have any supernatural strength or special powers…you only have the skills you've learned over the years, and a whole lot of courage. I may have accepted my destiny, but it's because of you that I am proud of it now. You are my heroes."
Buffy could literally see them sit a little taller.
"It's been a long, hard week, and we have one more battle to do before we're done here, but I want you all to do one thing for me. Live. Live for me – because after this is over…I want to shake your hand." The small blonde gave them a deep respectful bow as she said, "It's an honor to fight at your side."
As she straightened, she gave them her trademark smirk. "Now let's kick some demon ass!"
The cheers nearly brought down the rafters.
"Wow…who knew Buffy could be so eloquent," Carter said in surprise, as she watched the reactions of the soldiers.
"I'm a little surprised myself, Sam, but I have to admit it's done wonders for morale," Daniel responded.
Arms crossed, O'Neill cocked his head. "Everyone's got it in them to be a little eloquent at times, especially if something moves them enough. Realizing that all these people, and their ancestors dating back thousands of years, have been fighting the same fight was probably a real eye-opener to her. Summers looks a little humbled by it all, which I'm sure helped her find the words for such an inspirational speech. At least she knows she's not alone anymore."
With that, the Colonel walked off towards where the other leaders were gathered.
"Wow…who knew the Colonel could be so eloquent," Carter said with a smirk.
Daniel just laughed.
After the cheering had died down, Buffy quickly got back to business.
"Faith…pick your team."
The dark haired Slayer nodded sharply before calling out, "Yo! Eisen! You ready to play with the beasties?"
"As I always am, Faith," he called back.
"Grab your guys, then…you're with me. I got four, B."
"Eisen?" Buffy lifted an eyebrow in question.
"He's wicked nasty with sharp pointy objects…you shoulda seen him in London," Faith gave her an evil smirk.
"I'll take your word for it," the small blonde shrugged before turning to the waiting soldiers.
Calling out names, she added more soldiers to Faith's ranks, and picked the teams for both Teal'c and Dawn, making sure to place the majority of stronger swords with them, then picked her own.
"Xander! You up for a little chopping action?"
Xander looked at her in surprise, but nodded his head in agreement.
"I want you on the main doors – it's going to be hit hard when the shield drops as soon as the spell begins," Buffy said firmly before picking twenty men to back him up. "You're in charge."
His eye widen at that, but he nodded his head sharply before gesturing the men to follow him to one of the tables for a quick planning session.
Buffy smiled slightly at seeing the ease with which her best-friend took charge of the group – Xander may not realize how good a leader he was, but she did.
"Master Tanaka, your people are the best swordsmen here…I want you to split them between the groups. You, and whoever you work with best, are with me. If I'm called away, you're in charge of my group."
The Japanese man bowed and turned to his men, quickly splitting them in pairs, and pointing them to the groups that would be led by Buffy, Faith, Dawn, and Teal'c – the remaining four were sent Xander's way. The men moved to take their place, bringing the four smaller groups' numbers up to an even dozen.
"The rest of you…keep your swords handy, and be ready to back us up where necessary," Buffy nodded her head sharply at them, before turning to where Dozhdalev and Colonel O'Neill stood waiting. "Everything ready, Yury?"
The Russian officer bowed his head, "Even as we speak, the men are preparing our little surprise."
Buffy gave him a wicked grin.
"You know Danny's gonna be bugging you for the recipe, don't you?" O'Neill said with a chuckle.
"And he will have to go away disappointed, my friend – the ingredients are too volatile for it to become common knowledge."
"That won't stop him from whining at you…extensively."
Dozhdalev just chuckled before moving away to finish making preparations.
Jack turned his attention towards Buffy, lifting an eyebrow. "So, how come Eisen gets to fight, and we don't?"
"'Cuz he knows which end of the sword to stick into the demons," Buffy smirked at him.
"Funny, Summers," he scowled.
"If you really wanna know, ask Faith…she picked him – said something about him being wicked nasty with sharp pointy objects," the small blonde shrugged, then looked at him seriously. "You get enough action as it is, Jack – don't go looking for more, especially here…it's been really rough out there, even for me."
Buffy looked out the window, watching as one of the few remaining flying demons flew in the distance.
Jack placed a hand on her shoulder and gave it a squeeze. "You've done good, Summers."
She smiled up at him.
"Wow, a compliment! Never thought you knew what one of those were," she joked, before a hesitant look came over her face. "Jack?..."
The Colonel saw Buffy's quick glance towards her sister, and knew exactly what she was going to say. "I'll watch out for her, Summers...personally – keep your mind on your own group."
Buffy gave him a grateful smile, reaching up to squeeze the hand that was still on her shoulder.
"I should go and see if Xander has any questions – I don't think he was expecting me to put him in charge."
"You sure he's up to it?"
"He had a good teacher."
"Who, you?" Jack asked skeptically.
"No…the Hellmouth – you don't survive actively fighting on the Mouth of Hell for over seven years if you haven't learned how to take charge and think quickly," Buffy replied, a look of sadness briefly flashing across her face. "He was an excellent student."
With that, she moved away, heading towards the large group surrounding Xander.
A subdued Colonel just watched her walk away.
As Buffy approached her best friend, she heard the group of men around the table chuckling – probably at some quip of Xander's…he tended to bring out the funny when it was needed.
"OK, guys…get and do what you need, and be in place in 15 – remember…for no potty breaks does any demon wait."
Laughing, the group broke up.
"Glad to see you can still make people laugh just before a battle, Xand," Buffy grinned at him.
"Well, you know me…stand-up comedian with donut in hand, taking on the demons by denying them the jellies. What's up, Buff?" Xander smiled as he leaned back against the table, crossing his arms over his chest.
"Just seeing if you got any questions, or need anything. You set?"
"We're good to go, but I do have one question." He lifted a hand to rub at his neck. "With all the people sporting shiny medals, unpronounceable titles, and more fighting skills than I'll ever have, why me?"
Xander honestly looked confused as to Buffy's choice, and she shook her head.
"I'm surprised you even have to ask, Xander – everyone here may have more experience fighting demons now than they did when they first arrived, but you have the most. You know how a lot of the demons fight, and I need your level head and quick thinking to counter any surprises they might pull."
He dropped his eyes to the floor, a look of uncertainty on his face.
"Don't, Xand. Don't doubt yourself…if I didn't think you were the best one for the job, I wouldn't have asked you to do it." She pulled him into a fierce hug, whispering in his ear, "You're my hero, Xander…you always have been."
With one more squeeze, Buffy let him go, and went to talk with the other team leaders.
Any doubts Xander had were burned away at her words – even after everything that had gone on between them recently, she still believed in him…and apparently the soldiers did too, since no one had objected to his leadership.
Needing to get his own gear, he strode away with confident steps.
"You ready kid?"
Dawn scowled. "I'm not a kid!"
"Oh, yeah…she's a Summers. I'd recognize that scowl anywhere."
"Which tells me that you're just as irritating to Buffy as you are to me."
Daniel and Carter laughed.
"She's got you there, Jack."
The Colonel just scowled back at the younger girl. "Well, you better not get hurt, or your sister's going to kick my butt."
"Kick your butt? Geez, you guys must be repressing her…she used to have better threats than that."
Chuckling, Daniel said, "Considering that she threatened to give Major Ferretti an enema with a staff, I don't think you need to worry about her creativity being repressed."
"Oooo…a medical procedure threat, that's a new one – almost as good as the time she told Whistler she was going to rip out his rib-cage and wear it as a hat."
O'Neill chuckled at that, then gave her a serious look.
"Be careful out there Dawnie, OK?"
She gave him a sloppy salute, as she grinned. "Yes, sir! Wouldn't want you to have to try and outrun my sister if she decides to go gunning for you."
"Why run? She's faster than a Thundercat. Besides, I always follow the number one rule of survival…never piss off someone who can bench-press a car."
Carter and Daniel exchanged a grin as they watched their CO joke around with Buffy's younger sister, knowing he was doing what he could to keep her from worrying about both her sister, and the upcoming battle.
The arrival of two soldiers lugging a large box between them, full of colorful round-ish items, interrupted their banter. They set it down by the window, and gave respectful nods to the group before leaving again on another errand.
Daniel looked at the contents of the box in confusion. Picking one of the items up, he turned to O'Neill. "Water balloons? Or are they filled with something else?"
"Nope, just good, old-fashioned water, Danny-boy."
"Have we gotten low on weapons and ammo, or am I missing something here?"
Dawn and O'Neill exchanged grins before saying, at the same time, 'You'll see', then snickering.
Carter looked just as bemused as Daniel, but trusted that her CO knew what he was doing.
A five minute count came over the radio, and O'Neill motioned his group to step back as the same two soldiers from earlier wheeled in a large metal container, efficiently hooking it up to a long hose, the nozzle mounted like a machine gun in front of the corner window.
The two men quickly donned coveralls and head coverings that looked like they were made out of the same material as a fire-fighters gear, then moved the mounted siphon closer to the window, letting it extend out a good three feet.
One of the soldiers placed himself at the base of the mount, his hand wrapping around a trigger in readiness. The other moved to the container, and readied himself to turn the spout at the signal.
"Sir? What's going on?" Carter looked at the two soldiers in curiosity.
"Patience, young grasshopper, patience…all will soon become clear," O'Neill intoned with a fake Asian accent.
Dawn gave a snort of laughter.
The countdown was marked, and as soon as it hit zero, the two soldiers jumped into action. As soon as the spout was opened, the second soldier moved towards the window and began to instruct the first soldier where to point – spraying a good amount of demons that choked the streets in astronomical numbers.
But, all too soon, the liquid ran out, and the two soldiers rushed to move the equipment out of the way, though not before ensuring that none of the liquid dripped out into the room.
Dawn and O'Neill grabbed a few balloons and hurried to the windows. Even though they were confused, Carter and Daniel mimicked their actions, and waited for orders.
With a barked 'corner one at bombing stage' into his radio, the Colonel smirked at his two team members before throwing one of his balloons out the window. The resultant explosion threw flames high up into the air, shocking both Daniel and Carter as they realized, at the same time, just what had been sprayed out the window.
"Greek Fire!" they both shouted.
"Just throw the balloons, guys…about 20 feet out," Dawn giggled as she tossed her own before running to grab more.
With scathing looks at Jack, the two began lobbing theirs out the window.
"I think you pissed them off, Jack," Dawn snickered as she returned to her window, hands full.
"I try," he grinned.
The four of them continued to throw the balloons until they ran out, and carefully looked out the window at the resulting devastation.
A large swathe of burning demons greeted their eyes, and they would continue to burn, unquenchably, until they were ash, such was the property of Greek Fire.
There were still quite a few stray demons, dazedly walking about, that hadn't been sprayed, since they had been too close to the building to safely set fire to them.
Dawn grabbed a gas mask and fitted it over her head, and got ready to be lowered out the window as soon as the heat from the fire was less intense.
All too soon, the youngest Slayer was being rappelled down the side of the building, the rope being loosened by O'Neill, whose hands were covered in leather gloves, to keep the rope from biting into his flesh.
Dispatching the strays, Dawn quickly began to clear the area, to make way for the coven. As the soldiers chosen by Buffy dropped down next to her, similarly geared with masks, they joined in on the clearing efforts.
In less than 5 minutes, they had a wide enough area for what they needed, and Dawn signaled the Colonel that they were ready for the wiccans to join them.
The lithe brunette removed her mask as the fumes from the fire had died down, and tossed it away, as did the soldiers. Picking four of the soldiers, she ordered them to guard the women until they were in place and could guard themselves.
The women who would be performing the spell were swiftly, but gently, lowered in make-shift hammock chairs, which the appointed soldiers helped them out of.
"Hurry up, guys! The fire's almost low enough for the demons to get through!" Dawn barked out.
Six of the soldiers and Dawn surrounded the women, several feet out, while the rest placed themselves in positions to back-up and/or rotate with the first line of soldiers.
Three of the women began to remove items for the spell from their bags, while the third erected a shield around them – the shield could keep any- and every- thing out, but the less the demons were able to attack it, the longer it would last…and considering the spell would take over twenty minutes, they needed it as long as possible.
"We've got incoming!" Dawn yelled out as she gripped her sword tighter, preparing for the onslaught.
The demons hit hard, and even Dawn was hard pressed to hold them back – the back-up were forced to enter the conflict sooner than anyone had hoped. Dawn yelled at them to work in pairs, feeling the presence of a soldier behind her as they complied.
While the front-line swung and hacked, the soldiers behind them used the lengths of their swords to thrust past them, into the chests of the slavering monsters. It worked, but the pressure of keeping it up would soon take its toll.
Dawn heard orders being barked into the radio by someone inside, who had seen their situation – apparently the other corners were having the same difficulties, and more soldiers were sent into the fray, to replace those who tired, or fell.
Parrying and hacking, Dawn could only continue fighting, not stopping or hesitating when she heard soldiers fall, and die, around her…and she finally understood why her sister had become harder over the years.
No one could stay unchanged when surrounded by death every day.
Fifteen minutes into the spell, it happened.
Two of the flying demons broke into the third floor, the magical barriers that had previously kept them out had been dropped at the beginning of the protection spell, as their magical energy would have interfered, and the 'flying monkeys from OZ', as Xander had put it, took advantage of it.
"Daniel!" O'Neill yelled out as he saw one of the demons grab hold of the younger man and throw him into the wall, but the Colonel was too busy with his own monster, and couldn't do anything to help.
A few soldiers raced to help both of them, but were easily batted away by the creature's wings and tail.
"Carter! Shoot them!"
"But we might hit you, sir!"
"Just do it! That's an order!" he barked out as he swung his crossbow back and forth, trying to keep the demon, and its claws, back from him.
Daniel wasn't having any better luck as the creature grasped him by the neck, pulling him up from the ground until his feet dangled in the air. He could only clutch at the thing's arms, his only weapon having been dropped when he hit the wall.
There were several 'twangs' as crossbows were released, and both men could see the demons stagger as they were hit.
The Colonel took advantage of the demon's distraction, and pulled a knife from his thigh sheath before burying it in its neck. He pulled it out with a vicious twist, and reburied it in the things chest. The monster collapsed, dead before it even hit the ground.
O'Neill looked over to where he had last seen Daniel, ready to rush over and help if necessary – he didn't have to…the demon lay prostrate on the ground, its neck at an odd angle and a panting Daniel standing over the body.
The older man lifted an eyebrow at him, and Daniel just shrugged sheepishly…the Colonel made a mental note to grill his young archeologist after this was all over.
"Sir! Colonel! Teal'c's in trouble!" a soldier called out over the radio.
"How bad is it!" he barked back.
"They're overrun, sir! Only Teal'c and four soldiers are left!"
"Daniel! Get Summers…now!" O'Neill ordered before barking back into the radio. "I need ten swords on corner two – I repeat ten swords on corner two!"
As he heard the telltale noise of pounding footsteps, the Colonel turned to his 2IC.
"Carter, I need to assess the situation – you're in charge here."
O'Neill ran out the door, making his way to the next building, and thanking whoever it was that had the brilliant idea of making walkways between the two structures, foregoing the need to go to the ground floor in order to enter the next building.
He entered the room just as the two remaining flying demons broke in, causing havoc within the already panicking room.
Spying a sword leaning against the wall, the Colonel snatched it up and entered the fray. Swing the blade in an arc, it bit into the wing of the creature, causing it to screech in pain and whip around.
The demon tried to backhand him, but O'Neill dodged out of reach, swinging the sword and striking a victory as it sliced into the demon's arm – it went into a frenzy, arms and wings flailing, leaving the Colonel hard pressed to avoid all four appendages.
But the Colonel's luck ran out and the demon knocked the sword from his hand. Just as it reached out a clawed hand towards him, the beast's head was suddenly gone from its body.
As the remains fell to the floor, it revealed a small blonde figure standing behind it, a smirk on her face.
"Stop goofing off Jack…we're in the middle of a battle here, in case you didn't notice."
Buffy spun around to see where the other demon was, only to see that it had caught sight of her, and scrambled to exit the building before she could approach.
"Dammit!" Buffy exclaimed as she watched the demon make it to the window, tossing soldiers left and right as it made to escape. Grabbing a wound length of rope from the ground, she tossed the grapple end to the Colonel. "Find something to hook this on, will ya, Jack?"
She ran off, grasping the loose end of the rope, leaving a confused Colonel to watch as the rope unwound itself behind her. He didn't make the connection until he saw her approaching one of the windows at a dead run.
Rushing in the same direction, he had just enough time to firmly hook the grapple onto the window ledge before the rope became taut.
The damn woman had jumped out the window!
Leaning out in time to hear her Tarzan yodel and see her axe bite into the chest of the last flying demon. He yelled out, "Summers, are you nuts!"
"You're just learning that now, Colonel?" a voice yelled back from somewhere to the left, on the ground.
O'Neill caught sight of Xander fighting at the doors as he laughed at Buffy's antics – she had just yelled out 'Screw Tarzan! Jane's a better fighter, and much prettier too!' as she began the down swing of her flight.
Shaking his head, the Colonel pulled himself back into the room and made his way to the corner where Teal'c was fighting.
The five men were still holding their own, though they'd had to leave the wiccans protected by only their shield, since they didn't have the numbers to hold the area.
Buffy quickly joined them, her scythe making easy work of the demons, and allowing the soldiers to create an open area for more men to join them.
Once their numbers were brought back up, they were able to take back the area surrounding the wiccans, and then some. Teal'c and Buffy fought side by side, weapons flashing.
"My thanks BuffySummers."
"No prob, Teal'c…it looks like you guys were hit a lot harder than my corner was," she huffed out as she used his shoulder to propel herself higher in order to kick an extremely tall demon in the face. She broke its nose. "I think they're almost done – wiccan smoke is always a good sign…unless it means they set their robes on fire."
Teal'c only grinned in response.
"Get ready to step behind the barrier once it goes up – God…I'll be glad when this is over! My skin doesn't do well with demon guts mud masks, and I probably stink!"
The two couldn't speak anymore, as the demons stepped up their attack in response to the wiccans' chants – Buffy had noticed the change in cadence, and had a feeling that they were in the final stretch.
Her thoughts were proven correct as a blast of light shot into the air from the center of the buildings, then spread in a dome-like shape over the entire block before the edges shot down into the ground a few feet behind them.
The three wiccans turned their power towards helping their fourth with the protective barrier. While they were now behind the force-field, there were still several stray demons to be taken care of – the ones that were closest to the building at the time the barrier went up had been trapped inside.
The soldiers were quickly dispatching them, but until they were gone, the witches were still in danger.
"Yay! Demon-be-gone barrier is in place. Let's go, Teal'c…I'm hungry!" Buffy chirped as she began to back up, giving away inches, then feet, to the demon horde. Teal'c matched her movements.
Stepping back behind the barrier, Buffy heaved a sigh as she saw the demons beat on the magical force-field to no avail…the suckers weren't getting through.
Buffy's head whipped in Teal'c's direction, only to see him still fighting the demons.
"Get behind the shield, Teal'c!"
"I cannot! It will not allow me to pass!" he shouted back with a tight voice.
"Oh God," Buffy choked out, immediately realizing just why he couldn't get through.
The barrier saw the Gao'uld in his stomach as a demon.
She turned to where the wiccans were huddled behind their barrier. "Can one of you get him in?"
"We can't…none of us can," one of the women answered tiredly as she continued to help with the shield. "We may have helped put the barrier up, but only Mr. Giles or our High Priestess can control who is permitted beyond the barrier."
Buffy's face tightened, and she shouted out to one of the soldiers, "I need a radio! Someone give me a radio, NOW!"
One of the soldiers broke off from where he had been backing up another soldier and handed her his.
Hearing the panic in her voice, O'Neill ran to the window as he barked back, "What!"
"Teal'c can't get through the barrier!" Buffy heard a muffled curse over the radio in response. "Get Giles! You gotta tell him…he's the only one that can do anything!"
"Summers!" O'Neill barked out, a warning tone in his voice.
"He's gonna die out here if you don't, Jack!" Buffy locked gazes with him before softly saying, "And so will I."
Buffy dropped the radio to the ground as she spun around and headed back outside the barrier.
With a curse at seeing she no longer carried the radio, the Colonel yelled out the window, "Make your way to the main doors!"
Though she heard him, she was too busy to acknowledge, and O'Neill abruptly spun on his heels and ran to the other building, in search of Buffy's Watcher.
He didn't know how he was going to explain Teal'c's little passenger to the man without giving away military secrets, but he had to try…it wasn't only Teal'c's life in danger now, and he was pretty sure Mr. Giles wasn't going to let his Slayer die after they had just won a major victory.
And on the ground, two fierce fighters continued to battle for their lives.
Having heard the short conversation over the radio, Giles met up with the Colonel at the stairs, and strode quickly towards the main doors as they exchanged a low conversation.
"Everyone clear the area!" Giles barked out, giving the two a private space to continue their discussion. The British man gave O'Neill a hard look. "No demon has ever been allowed behind these barriers, Colonel…give me one good reason why we should change that fact."
"Teal'c isn't a demon, Mr. Giles! He only carries one…one that has absolutely no control over him," O'Neill shot back.
"That isn't reason enough."
"Then how about this…if Teal'c dies, so will Summers!" the Colonel bit out angrily.
"Are you threatening Buffy?" Giles growled as he leaned towards him with tightened fists.
"No, it's not a threat…I'm just stating a fact – Do you really think Summers is going to leave Teal'c out there on his own! She doesn't strike me as someone who would abandon another person, just to save her own hide…or am I wrong about that?" O'Neill growled back just as fiercely.
Shoulders falling as he let go of his anger, Giles' fists uncurled as he responded with a soft, "No, she wouldn't."
Their heads whipped up as they heard the voice of the woman they were just speaking of as she shouted out a panicked 'Teal'c! No!'.
The site that met their eyes horrified them.
The soldiers had dispatched the remaining demons with ease, and went to go help Buffy and Teal'c.
"Stay behind the barrier! That's an order!" Buffy shouted.
"But…" one soldier started, but was interrupted by Teal'c.
"I will not have you give up your life to spare mine."
"If you want to help, try to clear us a path to the main doors," Buffy panted as her scythe continued its swathe of death. "But, whatever you do, do not cross the barrier."
The soldiers quickly organized themselves on either side of the two fighters, and began to pick off the demons, letting Buffy and Teal'c concentrate on the ones in front of them.
It was a slow progress, but it worked, and they finally made it to the doors.
But the two were tired, and tired warriors make mistakes.
Buffy had stepped a little too far to the side, leaving a gap between her and Teal'c that was large enough for one of the demons to slip in and separate them. It clobbered the dark-skinned warrior over the head with a piece of broken concrete, knocking him unconscious.
Teal'c's sword dropped onto the floor on the other side of the barrier, soon followed by Buffy herself who, at the heavy press of too many frenetic demons, had been shoved hard enough to send her stumbling.
She turned around to see Teal'c being dragged further into the crowd of demons.
"Teal'c! No!" Buffy shouted as she dragged herself up from the ground.
But the other warrior couldn't hear her in his comatose state.
The small blonde threw herself back into the fight, ignoring several shouts of her name…she couldn't leave Teal'c to die…she just couldn't.
Hacking, slashing, punching, and kicking, she made her way towards him, drawing ever closer – thankfully, the demons carrying him couldn't move very fast, what with the press of the others around them.
Buffy chopped their heads off and Teal'c fell to the floor, still out cold, and she moved to protect him where he lay, hoping and praying the others would be able to help extricate them from this mess.
"Buffy!" both Giles and O'Neill shouted as they watched the small women throw herself back into the fight…one they knew to be hopeless.
The soldiers that had helped the two warriors get back to the doors continued to try and help where they could, but as the blonde Slayer drew further and further away from the barrier, they wondered if their efforts made any difference…but they continued to stab and cut where they could, and waited for someone else to give them orders.
"Out of the way! Get out of the way…NOW!" a male voice shouted.
The soldiers looked behind them in time to see the Slayer's friend, Xander, running towards them, carrying a crossbow. Several other soldiers followed him, similarly armed, and yet more soldiers carrying bins of bolts and extra crossbows. They backed away, leaving the newly arrived warriors with a clear shot of the demons that had filled the space left by Buffy and her scythe.
Xander and the others quickly got into position and began to shoot out at the crowd of demons, hoping to clear a path for Buffy and Teal'c to make it back. Bodies fell left and right as the bolts rained down on their enemies, and they soon caught sight of the small blonde, her weapon flashing around her at a breathtaking speed.
Everyone was relieved to see that the two warriors hadn't been pulled too far from the barrier, but it was still too far to safely send anyone in after them – the non-stop shooting of crossbow bolts was the only thing keeping the area cleared, and they could only hope that Teal'c would regain consciousness soon enough to help with his own rescue.
But he lay there, unmoving.
"Buffy!" a distressed voice cried out.
Once the demons inside the barrier had been killed, both Dawn and Faith had a clear path back to the entrance, and arrived to see that the oldest Slayer was in a whole lot of trouble.
Dawn moved to go help her sister, but was firmly held back by Faith.
"Woah there, little D…you're gonna get stuck like a pig if you go out there."
"But she needs our help! I won't let her die out there Faith!"
"B's holding her own for now, D, and the X-man's got the soldier dudes keeping a clear path until she can break away," Faith gripped the younger Slayer's arm more firmly as she felt Dawn try to pull away. "Stop it, Dawn! The only thing you'll do if you go out there is get killed, and I don't see Buffy being down with that. We gotta see if Giles or someone else has a plan, and we got to stick with it, no matter what, got it!"
"Fine!" Dawn replied tightly.
Faith didn't let her go, on the off chance that Buffy's sister would be just as impulsive as the blonde was herself, and dragged her through the main doors, making sure they didn't get in the line of fire.
They didn't have far to go – Giles stood just inside the entrance, along with Colonel O'Neill, right behind the last line of crossbow wielding soldiers, both ready to make a move if there was a clear opening.
Faith immediately got to the point as soon as she neared the two older men, "Yo, Giles! What's the plan?"
"We haven't got one, so we're open to options," O'Neill clipped out before the British man could respond. His eyes darted around the area where Buffy was still fighting, grasping for ideas that wouldn't get anyone else killed or injured, but was coming up blank.
"Send us out! We can cover her back!" Dawn jumped in, body tense with worry.
"Sorry, kid – you may be good, but you're not good enough to take the place of twenty crossbows," the Colonel said bluntly.
"He's right, Dawn…they're barely holding them back as it is. You wouldn't be able to…Oh, God. Buffy!" Giles paled as he ran forward through the lines of soldiers, not caring if he got into the line of fire. The Colonel was right on his heels.
A demon had gotten past Buffy's guard, scoring a long claw across her back, from right shoulder to left hip. The momentum spun her around to face the building, and she dropped to one knee, her body bowed over the prone form of the man she was protecting.
And everything stopped.
The demons froze in surprise at their stroke of luck, and the soldiers paused in dismay.
And in that frozen tableau of chaos and mayhem, Buffy raised her eyes.
Her gaze locked with O'Neill's, and he could see the pain within them as the blood ran down off her back and spilled onto the ground behind her.
What his own eyes reflected – fear, worry, anger – he didn't know, but as his eyes continued to hold hers, he watched as the pain was replaced by a cold fury, a rage greater than he had ever seen in anyone. And she stood, backhanding the demon that had clawed her. It flew over the heads of the other demons, then fell from sight.
Her actions broke the demons from their immobility, and they began to attack again, but was matched by a Slayer whose actions were fueled by a furious wrath.
The others watched, stunned, as Buffy moved at an awe-inspiring speed, the scythe whirling around in a blur as it cut, stabbed and hacked at the demon horde, her feet dancing around the prone form of Teal'c in a breathtaking game of precision, never once stepping on him as she moved from one side to the other, from head to toe.
"Buffy!" Dawn wailed softly, knowing her sister wouldn't be able to keep it up for long…and if she slowed, she would fall.
Xander, having been close enough to hear Dawn, shook himself from the shock of Buffy's latest display of prowess and stood, barking out, "Dawn! Faith! Grab a crossbow and some re-loader back-up!"
While the two younger women went to grab the nearest crossbows, Xander directed his men to new positions.
"Lines one and three to the outside and forward! Line two, split and move to the inside of the full lines. Keep the gap from closing," he called out. When the two women returned, he continued, "We'll take the inside. Giles, Colonel, get down and get ready! Dawn, Faith, watch Buffy's movements and shoot the ones in front of her as she moves away…take as many down as you can so she doesn't have to deal with them. Dawn, you're left, Faith, center…I'll take right."
"You sure you'll be quick enough, Xan-man?" Faith asked as she started shooting around the swiftly moving body of her sister Slayer, her own Slayer instincts allowing her to be in perfect sync.
"I may not have Slayer reflexes, Faith, but I think I've fought long enough with Buffy to anticipate her moves. I'll be OK."
Xander, Dawn, and Faith shot over the heads of the two men as they walked forward, the young man shooting more carefully than the Slayers, but still taking down a good number of demons. Four soldiers followed them with spare crossbows and a bin of bolts, reloading them as the three shooters ran out of ammo – the demon bodies were piling up fast.
"What are you planning, Xander?" Giles asked as the three of them approached their position just inside the barrier.
"I don't know, G-Man, but I think the demons might start to break soon."
"Why do you think that?" the British man asked gruffly as he continued to watch Buffy fight, his heart clenching in fear.
"Because it looks like Buffy dug deep and pulled out her inner Bitch…and that Bitch is pissed. Sure, it'd be a prize to take out the oldest Slayer, but the Buffster doesn't look like she's gonna slow down any time soon…I think the monsters are gonna start thinking about their own survival."
"He's right…look," O'Neill replied. "Some of them are backing out already."
They looked out to see a few of the demons struggling to remove themselves from their own front lines, letting others take their place in the path of Buffy's scythe. Several more began to push themselves back as the sharp weapon began to get too close and too fast to avoid, until there were only a couple of demons who attempted to rush the furious Slayer.
The small blonde quickly killed off one then, with a scream that was primal in its tone, she hacked the last to pieces during the lull in fighting.
The demons froze again, and watched as the blonde Slayer slowly drew herself up from her bent position after one last hack at the dead demon. She glared out at them, daring them to make a move.
Xander held up a hand to stop the soldiers from shooting, and quietly said, "Go now, Giles. I think this is gonna be our only shot…we'll cover your backs if they start up again."
Giles and the Colonel quickly made their way to the two warriors, one prone, and the other standing over him protectively…her right foot next to one of Teal'c's hips, and her left between his splayed legs.
The two men grabbed their fallen comrade and dragged him slowly away, careful not to unbalance Buffy's fighting stance. As soon as they reached the barrier, Giles crouched down and placed a hand over Teal'c's stomach and chanted a short spell.
The British man drew in a breath of shock, then glared at the Colonel briefly before helping the man drag his friend behind the barrier.
Letting O'Neill and the others take care of the still unconscious Teal'c, Giles turned back to where Buffy still stood, glaring at the hordes of demons. He drew in a sharp breath.
Now that she was still, the damage to her back was perfectly visible – it was a bloody mess of torn fabric and skin, and the blood continued to flow sluggishly, dripping down onto the back of her pants and the ground around her.
Swallowing painfully, he quietly called out, "Buffy, we've got Teal'c behind the barrier."
For a moment, it didn't seem like she had heard him, and he took another breath to try and gain her attention, but broke off as she lifted her weapon.
Buffy pointed the axe end of the scythe at the demons, moving it in a small arc in front of her as she spoke in a cold voice, "Forty-eight hours. You have forty-eight hours to get out of my city before I come for you. Pass the word."
The small blonde spun around, striding purposefully towards the barrier, the bodies of the dead demons between her and the others not seeming to bother her as she stepped on or over them as she made her way towards where her Watcher stood.
Stepping past the barrier, she didn't stop, striding past silent soldiers who moved out of the way to let her pass, her eyes hard and not focused on any one thing. Giles walked next to her, casting worried glances at her stony face.
Once she entered the building a good few feet Buffy stopped abruptly and looked up at her Watcher.
"Is Dawnie OK?"
"I'm here Buffy, I'm good!" Dawn replied as she looked, with tears in her eyes, at the injuries Buffy sported.
Faith quietly stood next to the youngest Slayer, exchanging worried glances with Giles at the odd behavior of the blonde.
Buffy ran her eyes over her sister, taking in the cuts and scratches, but seeing no dangerous wounds. Lifting her eyes to her sisters, she nodded her head as she firmly said, "Good."
Then she crumpled, the scythe dropping to the ground as her injuries finally caught up with her.
Giles caught her falling form as the three of them shouted. "Buffy!"
Quickly lifting her into his arms, Giles barked out, "Dawn, run ahead and tell the doctors to get a bed ready. Go!"
Dawn took off in the direction of the make-shift infirmary, the British man following as swiftly as he could.
Faith scooped up the scythe and followed.
Bursting through the door, Dawn shouted, "Get a bed ready! Giles is bringing Buffy! Hurry!"
She held one of the doors open, and Faith, having jogged ahead of the Watcher, moved to hold open the other.
Dr. Frasier paled at the sight of the limp blonde in the Watcher's arms, but gestured him towards an empty bed near the back of the room.
Giles followed, a trail of blood drops marked his path as he moved to where the doctor indicated. He gently set his tiny Slayer down, being careful as he rolled her onto her stomach, making the worst of her wounds more accessible to the doctors.
There were several gasps a few feet away, and Giles looked up to see Colonel O'Neill and his team looking their way from a few empty beds over, where a bandaged Teal'c lay unmoving.
"Oh God," Carter choked out when she saw Buffy's back. From far away and in the dark, it hadn't looked that bad, but now in the garish light…
Before anyone else could say or do anything, two soldiers brought over a couple of make-shift partitions, and placed them around the bed, cutting off their view.
Everyone was shooed away, and the doctors got to work.
It was a tense few moments as the only sounds heard were ripping fabric and the terse commands of Dr. Frasier as she requested items of her trade.
A long while later, the small doctor exited the enclosed area, heading straight for Giles and Dawn, who had taken seats on another empty bed nearby as they waited for word about Buffy's condition, Faith leaning up against the wall a few feet away, the scythe propped up next to her.
Giles shot to his feet as he asked, "Doctor? How is she?"
"She's in no danger of dying, Mr. Giles, but she's not good. I'm afraid she's lost a lot of blood, too much, and it's suppressing her Slayer healing," Frasier replied seriously. "I may know her blood type, but I don't know all that much about Slayer physiology to know if regular human blood will help or hinder Buffy's healing."
"Use mine," Dawn butted in before Giles could respond.
The doctor gave the younger girl a soft smile as she placed a hand on her shoulder. "I'm sorry, honey…it's just not that easy. You may be her sister, but it doesn't guarantee that you have the same blood type."
"I do…I have the same blood type, and maybe my being a Slayer too will give it an extra punch."
"You've done this before?"
"Um…no," Dawn looked down, shuffling her feet.
"Then how do yo..." Frasier began, but was interrupted by the slim brunette.
"I was made from her, OK?"
"Dawn!" Giles gave her a sharp look.
"Giles! Buffy needs it, and the sooner, the better. It's pointless to argue about blood types when we both know that mine is an exact match," Dawn replied firmly before turning back towards the doctor and lowering the volume of her voice so no one nearby could hear. "Buffy probably didn't tell you anything about me because she's still protecting me, but…I didn't exist until about four years ago – I was a big ball of magical energy. Some monks made me human and sent me to Buffy for her to protect…and they made me human by using Buffy's blood. So I'm basically a whole separate body of Buffy-blood, now would you please just hook me up and start the transfusion!"
Dr. Frasier looked up at Giles for confirmation, and he nodded tiredly.
"Very well, young lady. Let's get you set up then."
Dawn followed the doctor, but when she insisted on being as close to Buffy as possible, the doctor balked.
"Dawn…she's in bad shape. I'm sure Buffy wouldn't want you to see…"
"I'm a Slayer now, doc…sooner or later, I'll see, or get, injuries just as bad or even worse," the brunette said stubbornly before she turned pleading eyes towards the small doctor. "Please…let me be with her."
Frasier only hesitated a moment before nodding her head. "Just remember that it looks worse than it is, OK honey?"
Dawn nodded her head and followed Frasier behind the screen. When she caught sight of her sister's back, the second doctor leaning over her as he stitched the ragged flesh together, tears filled her eyes, but she quietly sat in a chair next to the bed and held out her arm.
Considering that Dawn had been fighting for the past several hours, Frasier took the time to wash her entire arm before sterilizing the specific area and injecting a needle.
When the doctor completed the set-up, and reached to start the direct transfer, Dawn placed her hand over the doctors.
"Slayers heal about 10 times faster than regular humans. If you think it'll help, do a faster transfusion than normal."
"We'll try it at the regular rate first, Dawn. If it looks like you both can handle more, we'll increase it."
Dawn just nodded her head and leaned back in the chair. She fixed her eyes on her sister, heart clenching at the tired lines that etched her face, though the younger girl knew she probably didn't look any better.
For the next twenty minutes, everything was quiet except for the bustling of the doctors as they finished stitching Buffy up, and Frasier increasing the speed of the transfusion until it was nearly twice the standard flow.
Both the doctors and Dawn were relieved to see that Buffy's Slayer-healing had kicked in at some point, and they were keeping a close eye on the wounds, in order to take out the stitches before the skin healed over them, though it would probably be several hours before that happened.
And Dawn continued to sit quietly holding back her tears as she waited for Buffy to open her eyes and tell her everything was OK now.
Teal'c had finally regained consciousness.
After Colonel O'Neill assured himself that his friend was well, though sporting a large lump on the side of his head and a bad headache, he broke away from his own group to see if Mr. Giles had an update on Buffy's condition.
Xander had joined Faith and Giles at some point, and all three sat tense in worry.
As soon as the Colonel approached near enough, the three looked up at him. Faith and Xander returned to staring at the floor, but Giles fixed the Colonel with a cold glare.
"How's Buffy?" O'Neill asked hesitantly, confused as to why the British man was glaring at him.
"She's fine, Colonel O'Neill," Giles responded icily, but at seeing that the other man was truly concerned, his tone softened a little as he continued, "Dawn's giving blood right now, and Dr. Frasier said Buffy's Slayer healing has kicked in."
"That's good to hear," O'Neill responded slowly, a little uneasy at the cold look Giles continued to direct at him. "Would you mind telling me why you look like you're ready to cut me down?"
Giles' eyes flashed in anger as he stood up abruptly.
"Would you mind telling me why there is a Goa'uld on our planet, Colonel O'Neill!"
A/N2: I really thought Jack's comment after Buffy killed the Fyarl demon wasn't that subtle, but then again, all our brains work differently, mine more demented than most.
So, OK…the scene was, Buffy had killed the Fyarl demon for saying she was skinny 'a la Monty Python' (the wafer thin mint stuff), she told the guys, they laughed, and she stomped off.
Jack slung an arm around her shoulders and grinned down at her.
In a low voice, he said, "I may not be fat or stuffed, but do you want me to eat you and see if I…explode?" He wiggled his eyebrows at her.
Startled, Buffy stopped up short. She thumped him in the chest and tartly said, "That's gross Jack!" before stomping off.
And if you still don't get it, you're too young! I'm not gonna explain it further.
I hope I didn't disappoint too much with this chapter. I know I don't deserve it, but please review!