Disclaimer: See Part I
Pairings: See Part I (Mostly - forget what I said about Willow/Kennedy.)
Summary: See Part I
Spoilers: See Part I
AN1: Feedback always welcome.
AN2: It's been a while. Expect the next part before Christmas. Of this year, I hope.
Book I: For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that
Part I: Party Girl
Trailing behind the rest of the small group, Willow watched their guests as unobtrusively as possible. This tour wasn't what Willow had expected when Giles had enlisted her to participate in his dog and pony show for the British cloak-n-dagger types he wanted them to work with. The older woman, apparently in charge of the others, listened attentively to Giles' narrative as they toured the Council's London complex, asking the occasional question. She seemed like any other upper level bureaucrat they'd dealt with over the years. Polite but firm. But with an unexpected grasp of the situation the Council found itself it.
Most of her entourage, on the other hand, had failed to make much of an impression on Willow. There was the assistant, a much older man who paid close attention to everything, occasionally frowning as if taking mental notes who occasionally murmured something to a gray haired old man, introduced as an analyst, who would have made Buffy look tall.
A woman with short, dirty blonde hair, slightly taller than Dawn, had been introduced simply as an equipment specialist, though what kind of equipment she dealt with hadn't been made clear. If she had met her under other conditions, at a club or small social gathering, Willow felt the blonde would have been much more interesting, but not as the bureaucratic minion she appeared to be at the moment.
It was the final member of the group who concerned her. When they'd been introduced something about him had sent chills up and down her spine. And for some inexplicable reason she couldn't explain, she was sure he'd taken an instant dislike to her. She prided herself on being able to get along with almost anyone and found his perceived reaction disturbing and unexpected.
She'd kept a cautious, surreptitious eye on him as much as possible during the day. She had the distinct impression that he was well aware of her attention. She'd been trying unsuccessfully to figure him out but even a quick glance at his aura hadn't given her any insight into his character. There was something strange about it, something she didn't recall ever having seen before.
Although he was clearly human, his aura seemed to be obscured by a grey mist that made it hard to read. Several Wiccans from the Devon coven were expected at the holiday celebration that evening. She would have to ask them if they saw the same thing.
With one single exception, he hadn't revealed any emotions during the early morning meeting and the tour that followed. She was sure she'd seen a flicker of interest cross his face when they'd paused for a minute outside of one of the smaller training rooms Faith and Kennedy had been sparring in. They hadn't been doing anything special, just the normal things slayers did to burn off excess energy between patrols.
She thought that it was Faith he'd been interested in but she hadn't been able to confirm it. She'd been too busy ignoring Kennedy, still annoyed at her for her casual dismissal of their relationship the year before when it had become obvious that, as much as they enjoyed each other's company in bed, they really had nothing in common now that Sunnydale was gone.
Willow knew she was behaving childishly about the end of their relationship but she couldn't seem to help it. Or explain it when Xander had cornered her about it the month before. At least Buffy hadn't attempted an embarrassing intervention, like they done to her on more than one occasion. That was something she was sure she wouldn't be able to live down.
Bond was not an impatient man. Much of his career had been spent waiting for something to happen. But he really could have done without the dubious honor of being part of 'M's entourage as she was given a tour of the Council of Watchers complex in London. 'M' had seemed to be in her element as they were shown the minutia that kept the Council running, but the number of magic users wandering around was setting his teeth on edge. He knew he would have to get used to their presence if he was going to work closely with the Council or have any hope of involvement in his daughter's life.
Especially if the redhead who'd been frowning at him almost from the beginning was going to be around. She hadn't been formally introduced but he easily recognized her as one of the people his daughter had surrounded herself with during her years in Sunnydale. The analysts were still combing through years of data that had been collected but not examined during MI6's official moratorium on supernatural research. He suspected that at some point a dossier concerning the known activities of one Willow Rosenberg, for at least the last ten years, would appear on his desk. He'd already seen dossiers concerning Buffy, Rupert Giles, and Alexander Harris and she'd been a part of their lives for a long time.
The only bright spot in the tour so far as he was concerned had been the sight of two of these much vaunted slayers working out. One of them had been Faith, the young woman his daughter had warned him away from. After seeing her in action, sparring with the other slayer, he really didn't need any further warnings. About her or any other slayers.
His foes had been surrounding themselves with dangerous and powerful women for years. He was well aware of the dangers of involving himself with one of them. They either tried to kill him or they died. Or both. He also didn't need anyone like them in his private life. And professionally, he had more alpha women in his life than he could deal with already.
The thought crossed his mind that it was a good thing Moneypenny wasn't with them. Her uncanny ability to know what he was thinking before he said anything and to take him to task for it would have gotten him in trouble more than once during the tour. He was well aware that some of his attitudes towards women were still stuck in the previous century.
As they continued with the tour, Bond became increasingly puzzled. He couldn't see where his daughter fit into this organization. Over eighty percent of this organization seemed to consist of very energetic women, either these girl-warriors or magic users like Rosenberg. The few slayers they'd seen during the tour had exuded a barely restrained power, not something he'd sensed coming from Buffy. He wondered what made her different from them, what made her so special. MI6's dossier on her hadn't been able to tell him what he wanted to know.
Buffy stood on the sidewalk, watching the taxi pull away from the curb into the late afternoon traffic that flowed by the Council offices. She counted to ten, slowly, before picking up her carry-on. It had been an exhausting day and she knew it wouldn't be fair to storm into Giles' office in the mood she was in. Somehow, her rental car reservation had been lost. The explanation hadn't made sense even after hearing it four times. They'd agreed to send her another car for the next day but she'd been forced to take a cab in from the airport, at no small expense.
Normally, she would have called Andrew, or Giles' assistant, to arrange transportation but when she'd called the day before, everyone had seemed to be in the middle of preparing for the holiday party the next day and the upcoming Board meeting. She hadn't wanted to distract them with her simple transportation problems. A decision the cab ride had caused her to regret.
Walking up to the large entrance, she pushed in the door and tried to casually saunter in past the receptionist desk as if she hadn't just spent the last hour stuck in traffic in a cab with a driver intent on displaying his knowledge of American television trivia. Giving the receptionist a slight smile as she slipped past, Buffy focused on her current concern - Faith.
Dawn had flown in from Rome the week before, as soon as her internship was completed, leaving Buffy to deal with the task of packing up their apartment and arranging for their personal possessions to be shipped to London. She'd been happy to turn the apartment over to her new hand picked coordinator for the Council's just created Mediterranean region. She wasn't upset with the move, although she'd felt very comfortable in Rome and was sad to leave it behind. Living in London would allow her to be near her sister and to spend time with people she hadn't seen much of since leaving Sunnydale behind.
The only reason she'd agreed to Dawn's quick escape from Rome had been Faith. She hadn't heard much from the other slayer since her visit to Rome several months before but she selfishly wanted Faith nearby if she and Dawn were going to be living in England. She knew Willow and Giles would have wondered why she thought that Faith needed to work out of the same office but she hadn't been able to explain it to herself, let alone them. So she'd avoided mentioning it.
Luckily there'd been another way to arrange for Faith to move to London. All she'd had to do was mention to Dawn that Faith might start working out of the London office instead of her current roving assignment if she were given enough incentive. Knowing her sister and the way her mind worked, she hadn't had to do anything else except sit back and watch. Before she'd even arrived from Rome, Dawn had mapped out a very detailed plan that seemed guaranteed to get Faith to the London office and keep her there. All with Giles' blessing.
And Faith's agreement to the move had been a forgone conclusion. Buffy knew that Dawn would have Faith wrapped around her finger faster than Giles could translate an obscure prophecy in Sumerian. It took some doing but she'd become used to dismissing any feelings of jealousy that arose whenever she thought about Dawn having Faith to herself for extended periods of time.
It had been made abundantly clear to her that, although Dawn and Faith had a relationship that she couldn't begin to understand, it was strictly platonic. It was something she'd learned the hard way over the last two years. Any interference in the Dawn-Faith dynamic tended to result in two angry brunettes not speaking to her for days, if not weeks, which bothered her more than she liked to admit or even understood.
With the Council holiday party in full swing, Bond felt very out of place and wondered what he had done to merit 'M's insistence that he attend this function. The others had been allowed to escape back to their offices after the conclusion of the day's excruciatingly boring tour of the Council complex. As far as he could tell, ninety percent of the attendees were in their early twenties, if not younger, and even if he were inclined to become involved with someone who could break him in half like a dried twig with almost no effort, they had all been declared off limits by 'M'.
He had to admit to himself that part of his problem with this event was that he found it disturbing to be around so many young women who knew they would be lucky to survive into their late twenties and who seemed determined to experience as much of life as possible before then. And try as hard as he could, it had been impossible to forget how hard the lives of these women were. The Council records he had been given to read over the last few weeks had drilled into his head, with a vengeance, that these young women had no choice.
That his daughter, a frail seeming young woman, was one of these women added doubly to his desire to spend the evening with his head in a bottle of his finest Scotch. Not that his elderly housekeeper would let him get away with it. The only consolation was that the Council Head, Rupert Giles, had been sympathetic to his plight, promising something more appropriate for the older adults in attendance the following night where he could meet the people who'd managed to avoid this evening's event.
One of the few things he had to amuse himself had been watching the dynamics of the people present, a skill he had been taught long ago when he'd first started with MI6. Over the years, on more than one occasion it had saved his life. Careful observation could tell one a lot about the relationships between the people at a large gathering. This one was no exception.
The people in the room seemed to revolve around three people, one of them being, surprisingly enough to him, his daughter. The person he'd expected to be at the center of the party, Giles, had a much smaller following. Rosenberg, the rather acerbic redhead who'd been attached to his Council tour all day had a similar small sized 'court'. After careful observation of the way people moved between the three groups, he'd detected subtle signs that his daughter was the center of all activity in the room.
From the moment he'd first entered the Council complex he'd been aware that she was important to the past successes of the group but tonight it had become clear that she was even more important than he'd thought or anyone else in MI6, except possibly 'M', realized. He wasn't sure whether to be proud or worried.
Looking at it objectively, as he'd been trained, if he'd walked into the room without knowing anyone there he would have assumed that Buffy was the ultimate authority in the Council and that other two were just her lieutenants. Which was totally counter to his analysis of her after their brief meeting several months ago. She had not exhibited the signs he was used to seeing in someone who appeared to have the level of influence and control that he was sure he was seeing now. It was very puzzling.
To add to the confusing picture, which he needed to discuss with 'M' before things went any further and their organizations became hopelessly entwined, there were the two young women that he had yet to be introduced to but who seemed to occupy such an important part in his daughter's life, appearing in almost all of the recent surveillance photos. They seemed to move independently of the other groups in the room.
Dawn, the younger one who looked so much like a younger version of his own mother, never seemed to leave the orbit of this Faith. And while all of the women in the room were dangerous to some degree, either by being slayers, the companions of slayers, or experienced magic wielders, he sensed that she took it to a much higher level. She wasn't just dangerous, she embodied a deadliness he rarely encountered.
He had yet to determine what her real role was within the Council. The training session he had witnessed that morning hadn't provided him with any clues to her purpose in the organization, though he suspected from the little he'd overheard that she was their equivalent of a double-0 agent. He suspected her own dossier, which he planned to procure in the morning - complete or not, would make for interesting reading.
One thing he had noticed was that he could always find her, not matter how crowded the room became, by observing Buffy. It was almost as if there was a bright red string joining them together. He hadn't been able to determine what kind of relationship the two women shared but he was going to find out, though he knew his daughter probably wouldn't appreciate his efforts, even if it were under the guise of cooperation between MI6 and the Council.
By becoming a part of his world, she was now a target for any of his enemies with a grudge. If he was going to protect her from his enemies, he needed to know Buffy's strengths and vulnerabilities. And with her earlier declaration that Faith was off limits, he suspected he'd found one of the latter. He wasn't as concerned about Dawn's role in Buffy's life. Given her profession, he assumed Buffy was already aware of the dangers to her sister and took suitable precautions.
Looking around the room, Buffy hoped it wasn't obvious how bored and tired she was. She wasn't in the mood to play the political and social games that had seemed to dominate her time all evening, but no one else needed to know that. From the things she'd heard and been asked, she suspected that Giles had taken her move to London as a sign and had begun quietly prepping his immediate staff for his retirement.
The sooner she could get some sleep the better, if she intended to confront him about it, hopefully before he did something foolish during the Board meeting later in the week. At this point she would even take a corner of the ratty old couch in the game room. She'd had to listen to Willow ranting about the 'bad vibes' she'd been getting from the 'Bond guy' almost from the moment she'd set foot in the office that afternoon. And just the thought of the guilt trip Willow would slap her with when she found out he was her father was enough to make her head ache.
Although Willow had eventually run out of steam over her father, her ranting hadn't gotten any better at the party. Faith and her sister had shown up late to the party, giving an annoyed Willow additional ammunition for her venting session. She'd been especially vocal about their non-appearance in the offices for the last week, upset that Faith was 'stealing' so much of her 'Dawnie-time'.
Buffy loved Willow, she really did, but her ability to obsess over the smallest thing for hours on end was very exhausting. It had seemed to get worse in the months since Willow's relationship with Kennedy had faded into a historical footnote in the lives of the Scoobies. Buffy suspected that, with Xander now on an extended trip to Australia, everyone was too afraid to say anything to her about it and that, as the designated best friend, she would have to find time to take Willow in hand and find out what was really wrong.
Looking around over the heads of the people who'd attached themselves to her during the evening, she noticed that the party had begun to die down. Giles had already given her the signal that she was free for the rest of the night. Faith and Dawn had managed to slip away almost an hour earlier but she was sure she could easily find them if she needed to. Although she couldn't help worrying, she knew that as long as Faith and Dawn were together they were reasonably safe.
She was preparing to say her goodbyes and escape when she caught sight of her father headed her way. She'd managed to avoid him all evening, not that he made that a hard task. He hadn't looked it to her but she would be willing to bet almost anything that he'd been extremely uncomfortable spending the evening around so many young women he couldn't touch, she thought, almost maliciously. She wasn't about to begrudge her father his pursuit of companionship but even given what she'd learned over the years, there were limits to her tolerance if he pursued them in her presence.
One of the newer trainers, someone they'd managed to steal away from the British SAS, had spent an inordinate amount of time in combat zones. Buffy had spent several weeks with him the previous summer and had been struck by his comment that the effects of knowing that you might die within the next twenty-four hours should not be ignored by those in command unless they liked suicidal troops. And this was with normal soldiers who rarely saw action.
It certainly explained the highs and lows of her life. Even slayers, the ultimate in adaptable humans, couldn't take that kind of pressure indefinitely. They needed some way to alleviate the stress. She wondered how her father dealt with it. If she understood what Giles had told her correctly, his life was a constant chain of death defying misadventures.
Even with the drastic increase in slayer survivability rates, all of the Council's slayers were well aware of their own mortality, leading them to approach life with an enthusiasm that took no prisoners. Some slayer was going to eventually target him, no matter how much they were discouraged. She just hoped they all survived the inevitable fallout.
He'd had several months to plan how he was going to get to know his daughter, once she was living in London. But all he'd really accomplished was a grudging acceptance of her existence. He'd always prided himself on being quick on his feet and flexible so finding himself at such a loss was an unfamiliar and disconcerting experience.
He wasn't entirely sure how the slayer physiology worked, but as he approached Buffy he could see that she was almost asleep on her feet. He suspected that the moment she was alone she would find a way to escape the gathering. This was probably his best chance to talk with her, when her defenses were down.
"We haven't had a chance to talk." He told her when, after a quick round of introductions to the people gathered around her, they were left alone.
"Talking would be good." she murmured, dropping her glass onto the tray of a passing waiter.
"Would you like to take a walk?" Bond asked.
"Okay." She said. "Though not for long. If I stay up too late the whole Cinderella thing happens. Kind of scary, especially the shoes and hair."
He smiled politely at her attempt at humour, not quite sure what she meant but willing to play along. They walked silently through the almost empty complex.
"You'll have to pardon the appearance of interfering in your life," he began as they reached the lobby.
"Go right ahead." She said, pushing open the door. "It's generally considered open season for anyone with even a remote connection - friends, family, even enemies think they know better than I do how I should live my life."
Bond frowned at her sarcastic tone. "I've been observing you and your friends and one thing that concerns me is this Faith," he told her as they stepped out onto the street, getting right to the point.
"Faith? Faith is not a topic open for discussion." Buffy told him, her eyes flashing in the dim light. "We can talk about my atrocious taste in men, my hair, my clothes, even my shoes, but Faith is off limits."
"If the Council is going to work with us, everything is open for discussion." He said. "We can't afford the luxury of secrets."
Before answering him, Buffy started walking briskly down the street. "I'm sure you can send out your little spies and dig up all the dirt on her," She said, "but that won't really tell you anything useful about her. The Council and its rules made my life difficult and I hated them, but I was lucky. Faith is the perfect example of what could happen when the old Council made a complete mess of things."
"The old Council?" He wondered at the venom in her voice. During his exposure to the current organization any mention of the old Council and the way it operated had been treated as if it were ancient history. But to his daughter it obviously wasn't. He wondered how many others felt the same way and if it would cause MI6 any problems.
Stopping under a streetlight, she looked up at him for a moment, as if measuring his soul. "It's really simple, when you think about it. Take someone who has already been screwed by life, poster child for how not to raise a child, give her a few months of hope, of power, of acceptance when she finds out she is no longer helpless. Give her a purpose. Not necessarily a future, but she didn't really have one before that anyway."
"And then the person who rescued her, who had given her hope, is murdered in front of her and she barely escapes. So she runs. To the only other person she thinks can help. And it works for a little while but her world, her past is so different from what she finds that she has almost no hope of fitting in. But no one even notices. They are too busy with their own problems. And then, when something happens she doesn't think anyone will forgive and she tries to hide it, take away what little she's managed to carve out for herself. Punish her for an accident." She looked away, towards some distant point down the street. "How do you think she reacted?"
"It's worse when your enemies were once your friends." Bond said, hearing the pain in her voice. "But you can never trust them again."
"She wasn't just a friend." She told him, her voice low, looking down at her hands. "There were only two of us then. Two slayers. No one else understood what it was like. I don't think they understand even now what it was like to almost kill her. To watch her rotting in a hospital room while everyone pretended to forget about her. She and I have come to an understanding since then, but I don't think the blood will ever come off."
"There's almost always a price to pay when the world is at stake." He told her. "If we're lucky it won't be someone we know or care about."
"I don't think I've ever been that lucky." Buffy told him.
"Can you trust her with your sister?" He asked, curious about her reasons. Buffy seemed to believe that Faith had reformed. He had nothing to judge her by, other than with standards that he knew most people believed had become outmoded years ago. By those standards Faith was as dangerous as the evil she fought and not to be ever trusted.
"She couldn't be in better hands." Buffy said. "We might have been enemies, but they've had their own special connection for almost as long as Faith and I have known each other."
"So, your relationship with Faith..." he stumbled for a moment, not quite sure how to phrase it. There'd been a passion in her voice when speaking about Faith that had been missing in their previous encounter.
"Faith and I don't have a relationship." He couldn't help the expression of disbelief that crossed his face at her words. "Other than agreeing that killing each other over something that happened when we were teenagers is sort of pointless." she added.
"You seem very protective of her." He murmured in surprise.
"I have my reasons." Buffy said. "She fills a role no-one else can."
"She's a weakness." Bond told her bluntly. "A danger to those around her. To you and your organization."
"No. She's not." Buffy told him. He could almost see the frost forming around her words. "She's why we work so hard to provide a life, a support system for the girls out there like Faith, forced by fate to defend people who would throw them away in the trash. Seeing how far she's come makes us stronger."
Buffy stalked off down the street, leaving him behind. She'd managed to forget that her new father was still a man. And one who came from a very formal and stuffy era. Discussing her life with him, even in the vaguest terms was not something she wished to continue. Especially when it involved Faith. He wasn't going to see things in the same way.
She'd tried to make it appear that there was a valid reason for her attitude towards Faith but she didn't think she'd even remotely come close. She'd had to stop before she became too emotional, too incoherent. Not that it was really a surprise. Thinking about Faith often had that effect on her.
With no real destination in mind, several minutes later she found herself standing at the entrance to a local garden, breathing in the smell of freshly cut grass. Hearing a soft noise, she turned around quickly. The sensation of something heavy pricking her in the neck preceded her into a suffocating darkness.
Note: The title comes from Rudyard Kipling's poem - "Tommy"