Title: Spinning the Wheel

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Rating: T

Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not.

Summary: In the summer of 2001, Buffy Summers, The Slayer, was dead. Long live The Slayer. 2500 words.

Spoilers: Faster (2010); post-series for B:tVS/A:tS but no comics; specific references for the 1992 movie, "The Gift", and Angel Season 5.

Notes: I don't know where this came from. Blame all the commercials for Fast Five, I suppose, and watching my sister-in-law's ultrasound video last week. Some murky conceptual territory going on here (YMMV) but no specific warnings, I think.

In the summer of 2001, Buffy Summers, The Slayer, was dead. Long live The Slayer.

No, not Faith Lehane. The Stockton inmate had inherited the title and the duty- but not the capital letter or the comma. She was just the one currently wearing the mantle. The Slayer had opened fresh eyes out in Bakersfield: dark eyes, not green, sleepy with new life and deferred responsibility. The next stage in her soul's endless cycle.

Buffy's first Watcher, Merrick, had told her when they met that her occasional dreams of death at the hands of monsters in historical costumes were memories, not nightmares. That she was The Chosen One, reincarnated again and again into the fight, direct spiritual descendant of She Whom the Shamans Chained to the Earth. (Not that he told her that last part.) It didn't make her more gifted than any other Slayer- just more destined, the Watchers' insurance that there'd always be another.

The Pergamum Codex? Her story, first page and first Slayer clear through 'til the Ending.

So when she died... as always, her soul found new housing, and The Slayer lived on. Her adoptive parents named her Claire Garnet Reilly, third child in a very loving little family. She was a happy baby, content to be cuddled; and she was no more ready to die than her predecessor was to take another breath.

(Later, Buffy would remember light, and love. And a feeling that she'd been with her mother.)

But one strong soul, even The Slayer's soul, could not match up to the power of Osiris. King of the Underworld and judge of the dead: he came at Willow Rosenberg's call to breathe the ka back into in Buffy's coffin. But the living spirit was only one part of the soul, by the Egyptian definition. The rest of it, the god paused for a moment to consider. He had not been asked to kill, and if any deserved mercy, surely it was the eternal warrior of the people before him. The ba, the uniqueness of her past personality, she would need; but the ib, the heart and seat of the emotions, he could leave for Claire, if he chose to.

A five-month-old gasped and wailed in her crib, torn by pain she could not comprehend... and in Sunnydale, Buffy Summers woke, warm blankets exchanged for the cold confines of her coffin.

The two torn halves would regenerate in time. Claire's older brother would tell her one day that she'd hit a cranky patch her first year, but she would not remember; and Buffy proved tough enough to survive the trauma. Claire was still The Slayer, of course; he could not undo that curse. But she'd been given a fresh slate, unfreighted by old karma- and Buffy Summers would be allowed to rest when she fell a final time. To escape, at last, the chains in which she'd been bound.

For that justice, Osiris spared the witch when he departed, despite the insulting tenor of her summons.

He called her, after everything was done. Those dead who'd needed to die; Gary's ashes spread; and nothing more to drive him. He still had her file, new last name and number spelled out in plain black type, and Nixon's phone on the seat beside him. Of all the people in the world who might wonder, he thought she deserved the closure.

They'd ruined her life, too. The one she'd thought they'd have, when they'd been twenty-two and dreaming. And no matter how he felt about the choices she'd made- he'd cut her off, first. They'd been her choices to make, just as his choices had been his.

He dialed her number and waited for her to pick up.

No one answered when the ringing stopped, but he could hear breathing on the other end, and the droning tones of a newscaster. He wondered if she had been waiting for him to call.

"It's done," he said, the words falling heavy from his tongue.

Nan spoke then, her voice hoarse with unshed tears. "All of them?" she asked.

"All but the lookout. He's an evangelist, now." No point in explaining any further.

She considered that for a tense moment, then snorted. "What about the Old Man?"

"The Old Man?" He remembered the look on his mother's face when she'd told him- the traces of grief and regret when she broke the news. She loved him; but she'd also made the bed he'd had to lie in, and there was no sympathy in him for pain she'd brought down on herself.

"Already dead, before I ever got out," he sighed. "But it wasn't him. The others- they were all snitches. The guy that shot me was a cop. He's the one that planned it all."

He made us do it, I swear. Two of them had said that, and he still hadn't guessed, not until the gun had fired behind him. But it hadn't been his time to die; not until his brother's vengeance was finished.

"And you got him," Nan said, voice firm with quiet venom.

How did she...? The news. "Yeah. I got him." He reached up to touch the bandage on the back of his skull, feeling the throb of resplit scars and a dull, pervasive headache. The cop's own shit luck he was a creature of habit; he'd fired right into the surgical plate from the first time he'd murdered him.

"Good," she hissed. "Good." Then she paused for long a moment. "Jimmy..."

He winced. He hadn't been James Cullen since he'd walked through the doors of Murdock State Pen; inside, he'd been the Ghost, the man who just wouldn't die. It felt strange to hear his old nickname again, even stranger than seeing his face on the news. The cops would find him again, eventually; he'd known that would be the price he'd pay ever since he'd commissioned the files from Grone. But he'd thought he'd buried the last of the boy who'd been Jimmy in Nan's living room.

"What?" he replied, harshly.

"Jimmy, I..." She hesitated, voice wavering. He could picture it, tears in her eyes and a determined set to her chin; he'd missed her in prison, but there hadn't been room for her on the long, cold road he'd been walking.

"I lied to you, when you came here," she finally said.

Hope felt foreign, after all this time. "About what?" he asked, clenching his hand around the phone.

"When I said I..." She swallowed, and didn't finish the sentence. "I was afraid you'd try to find her."

"Her?" he demanded.

When he'd let himself think about it, those ten years behind bars- when he'd pictured- he hadn't dared dream often, but he'd thought of sons with her green eyes, daughters with her red-brown hair. Laughing in the sunshine with Nan: living a better life than he could have given them. But then he'd seen the boy on her doorstep; and then she'd told him.

Nan sniffed wetly. "Yeah. I called her Garnet, but I don't know what the folks that took her named her. I thought- well, like I said, I'd seen the news. I knew as soon as I admitted I'd given her up that I'd made a mistake. She doesn't need to know the world we grew up in. She doesn't even know me. So yeah, I lied to you." Her voice had steadied again, defiant.

He closed his eyes. Garnet. His little girl, named after his lost brother. Growing up somewhere with parents who weren't him, weren't Nan. But still loved. "Then why tell me now?"

"Because you won't find her. Because she won't be a distraction, now. And because... I decided you deserved to know."

He pressed the knuckles of one hand against the ache under his breastbone; thought about what his showing up on Nan's doorstep must have been like for her, after everything.

"Fair enough," he said, roughly. "And- thank you."

A beep sounded in his ear; she'd disconnected the call.

He dropped the phone back onto the passenger seat, then rubbed his hands over his face, trying to think. She'd be how old, nine? Born the summer of '01, his first year behind bars. But without a name, without a date, Nan was right, he didn't have much to go on.

Maybe it was better that way. What did he know about being a father? He had blood on his hands, and a manhunt after him. Did she deserve having that brought to her door?

...Did she have her mother's laugh? His brother's trusting heart? His stubborn will?

He straightened, then tossed Nixon's phone out the window, in case the cops thought to track it. Then he started the car and headed back toward the highway. No sense waiting around to be caught; he'd go back to Grone. Or get him to recommend another P.I.

He had something left to live for, after all.

And he wouldn't have to claim her to protect her.

Connor rolled his eyes at the vicious, vice-like squeeze his little sister was administering to his right hand. "That doesn't work on someone just as strong as you, you know," he told her, chidingly.

She glared briefly up at him, but relaxed her white-knuckled grip just a little. "It's not fair," she insisted.

"What's not fair?" he asked. The feisty little package of trouble otherwise known as Claire Reilly had been good for his patience, these last few years. Though sometimes it made him glad not to be living under his parents' roof anymore, not even during the summer; now that he had his own office and apartment, he'd been demoted to the role of occasional babysitter, not constant watchdog.

"I'm ten now! And I can take care of myself. I don't need anyone holding my hand at the freaking mall."

"Maybe it's to protect me," he teased, mouth curled slightly in amusement.

She scoffed at that. "Yeah, right. That argument doesn't work when you just made a big deal about being as strong as I am, you know." She gave his hand another vicious yank for good measure, then sighed, irritation deflating and leaving embarrassment behind. "Maria and Karen get to come to the mall on their own, and they're my age!"

"Maria and Karen weren't nearly kidnapped when they were little, either," he reminded her.

"Whatever," she scoffed. "That was a way long time ago, and we moved to L.A. after that. I'm perfectly safe now!"

No, actually, she wasn't; but she didn't know that.

Connor's birth dad's ex's organization had been pretty good about giving all the new Slayers the choice of whether or not to join them- or their guardians, in the case of minors in good living situations- and they hadn't even known about Claire until she was five or so; so it probably hadn't been them. She'd been barely two when the activation spell hit, much younger than any other known Potential who'd been Called- right about the time his gifts had started to show up.

He'd realized, later, that that was about the time Angel had arranged to have him grafted onto a better family. Wolfram and Hart had probably placed him with the Reillys on purpose to keep two known assets together- though he still had no clue why Claire was special other than being a Slayer, or how they'd known. But that information had leaked when the local branch had gone down, somehow, and several teams had turned up looking for her, just as they had for Connor when he was a baby.

Their adoptive parents still didn't know the full truth. Connor had taught them as much as he dared about keeping themselves safe while he finished his degrees at Stanford, so he could fight people like Wolfram and Hart on the legal grounds Angel's team had been least equipped to deal with. And in the meantime, Angel had made sure his parents and sisters were insulated from the continuing turmoil in the supernatural world. He'd promised to help Connor tell Claire the truth when she hit high school in another couple of years- as old as the current youngest 'official' Slayer. But until then, they were making sure she could have as much of a normal childhood as possible.

"Just humor them," he told her. "Just a few more years, and then you can make your own rules."

"Just a few more years, he says," she sighed gustily, leaning off to the right so she could peer into one shop window, using him as a counterweight as she craned her neck at ridiculous angles. "Freaking forever. Oooh, hey, I want to go in this store; I need some new jeans, and they've got the ones with those pockets like Amy has."

"The eighty dollar jeans?" he asked her, dryly, as he steered toward the door.

"You're a lawyer, big bro. You can afford it."

"A new lawyer working with a cheap P.I.," he reminded her. "But- all right. If you'll promise not to run off on me for the rest of the day?"


He let her go as they entered the store, and she dove immediately into the stack of designer jeans in the display, grinning as she held a pair up in front of her.

He didn't know where they were going to find a Watcher for her; Summers' crew were all administration these days, and he didn't know very many of the rank and file Council members. Connor would do it himself, but he wasn't sure it would be a good idea- she'd probably still treat him like a sibling rather than someone to be obeyed in the field, and that could be dangerous. Whoever it would be, would have to be someone who could manage a stubborn young Slayer without getting himself killed- and someone Connor could trust to have Claire's interests absolutely closest to heart.

They had a few years yet, though, if their luck held out. He sighed, watching as Claire collected a few more pairs of jeans, at least two of which he could tell were too small for her. She was tall for her age, and drew a lot of attention already with her thick dark hair, smooth tan toned complexion, and lively personality. He'd have to make sure she didn't walk out with anything too skintight, or their mom would kill him.

A looming figure in a dark jacket briefly caught at the corner of his eye as he turned away from the windows; he paused, glancing over, then shook his head at himself. It wasn't Angel, just a tall, big-shouldered guy with close-cropped hair, walking by the store- probably a Marine or something.

His phone rang, and he turned away, tapping at the Bluetooth receiver in his ear. "Nina, hey. Actually, I'm out shopping with Claire right now..."

The Destroyer grinned, chuckling as his vampire dad's werewolf girlfriend teased him, and followed his Slayer sister further into the store.